This Saturday, Virginia’s Emancipation Park (formerly Lee Park) is slated to be the meeting place of the Unite The Right rally, a much-publicized gathering of far-right personalities and their sycophants. With less than a week to go, Airbnb has taken active measures to delete the accounts of some members the company believes to be staying in Charlottesville for the rally—making lodging for planned attendees like members of the National Socialist Movement that much more difficult.
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According to screenshots shared on Twitter, the users have apparently been banned for violating Airbnb’s Terms of Service.
Over the weekend, chatter within far-right spheres alluded to a possible crackdown against those traveling to Virginia to hear white nationalist Richard Spencer, Buzzfeed washout turned fundamentalist Baked Alaska, Augustus Invictus, a one-time Senate hopeful and author of such LinkedIn screeds as Future or Ruin: The Argument for Eugenics and others preach hate in front of a statue of a Confederate general.
In a statement obtained by Gizmodo, an Airbnb spokesperson confirmed the company’s intentions:
In 2016 we established the Airbnb Community Commitment reflecting our belief that to make good on our mission of belonging, those who are members of the Airbnb community accept people regardless of their race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, or age. We asked all members of the Airbnb to affirmatively sign on to this commitment. When through our background check processes or from input of our community we identify and determine that there are those who would be pursuing behavior on the platform that would be antithetical to the Airbnb Community Commitment, we seek to take appropriate action including, as in this case, removing them from the platform.
The company suspects several listings in the area were booked with the intention of holding parties for neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer. The Daily Stormer’s staff have publicly announced their intention to attend Unite The Right. Though Stormer founder Andrew Anglin is not slated to speak at the rally, Richard Spencer’s official Altright.com Discord server had him as a guest for a co-Q&A earlier today.
It’s unclear if the banned users have been able to rejoin the platform, but according to screenshots of an email supposedly sent to one such affected user, the bans are “irreversible and will affect any duplicated or future accounts.”
Airbnb has previously overhauled its policies to combat discriminatory host behaviors, with limited success, and added a complaint system for neighbors of loud or unruly guest in May of last year. To the best of our knowledge, this marks the first time the hospitality platform has actively sought to intervene preemptively against guests rather than hosts, and this appears to be a very specific and unusual set of circumstances.
We’ve reached out to two users who claim to have been banned due to their intent to attend Unite The Right and will update if we hear back.
Update 7/14/17 5:49pm ET: In a statement from CEO Brian Chesky, Airbnb reaffirmed its commitment to banning users whose behavior is “antithetical to the Airbnb Community Commitment,” saying that the “violence, racism and hatred demonstrated by Neo-Nazis, the alt-right, and white supremacists should have no place in this world.”
What’s not explicit in the statement is whether or not Airbnb will continue to ban users it believes to be renting rooms through its platform with the purpose of attending gatherings like Unite the Right, the white nationalist rally held in Charlottesville this weekend which left three dead and many more injured. We’ve reached out to Airbnb and will update if we hear back.
Update 7/14/17 7:33pm ET: A spokesperson with Airbnb confirmed to Gizmodo that lodging booked for future gatherings in the vein of Unite the Right will also be subject to preemptive user bans.