Business Unusual

The Sharing Economy has a discrimination problem, who will fix it?

When a guesthouse owner discriminates on who may use their accommodation, the law takes over, but what happens when someone renting out their private home on a platform like Airbnb refuses for the same reason?

The sharing economy offers the opportunity for many to get involved, but discrimination is a big threat. Could technology overcome prejudices or does this represent a major flaw in the entire system?

While there are many platforms that have been created, the best known are the home rental platform Airbnb and taxi service Uber.

Both exist to make it easy for someone to earn revenue from someone that would like to use something for a short period.

The system’s biggest innovation was a rating system for both parties.

The rating is excellent for those that actually use the service and fosters trust - if not enforce good behaviour - to ensure your rating does not see you being overlooked by the next potential user. Trust has always been a significant human behaviour indicator and it is likely to become more important as we engage in non-personal ways online with brands and others.

But the rating can be affected by prejudice. That is first issue.

The second is that it does not work at all on the occasions that the service is declined.

Declining someone with a low rating makes sense assuming that the rating was justified. However, there are no rules for how to rate someone. It is possible that the rating - especially if there are only a few - was based on prejudice.

Airbnb is currently dealing with a growing number of incidents where those looking to book on the platform are being refused not because of their rating, but their race.

#AirbnbWhileBlack is a current trend following a campaign by NGO Share Better to highlight the issue. Airbnb has undertaken to address the issue with hosts and staff but are only expected to have a formal intervention in place by September.

If they succeed in overcoming the discrimination using technology, it may prove useful for other platforms.

What could they do?

The single largest improvement with web based interactions is the collection and processing of vast amounts of data. It was this data that allowed a Harvard study to determine that discrimination is real. Using the data to highlight discrimination and initiate a process would be better than waiting for a complaint to be filed and should lower the number of incidences.

Uber allows drivers to refuse a ride, but limits the number they may refuse in a shift to ensure as many people are served as needed. The company recently settled a lawsuit with the US National Federation of the Blind as Uber drivers had been refusing to transport the guide dogs of blind passengers.

It might seem easiest to remove the elements that may identify race like pictures and names, which has been suggested.

If a host was allowed only a certain number of declines, it might nudge those with bias to see that the prejudice was unfounded without needing a rule requiring you to accept a booking like a registered hotel would. The platforms would not like to implement something that would see hosts abandon it.

You could start a new platform. Innclusive and Noirbnb are yet to launch but hope to compete by being focused on giving all access.

Could it go further though? Some of the worst prejudice can be found on social networks. Might a tech solution help make humanity less discriminating?

Analysing what people post on Twitter and Facebook post could trigger a suggestion or a requirement to take an implicit association test to demonstrate the user's underlying bias. Blocking those with high ratings would lower the incidence of inflammatory posts.

Unfortunately the attempts to determine if diversity interventions work don’t suggest they do. We can, at least, begin with understanding that prejudice is real and more of a hindrance than a help.


Recommended

by NEWSROOM AI

702 welcomes all comments that are constructive, contribute to discussions in a meaningful manner and take stories forward.

However, we will NOT condone the following:

  • Racism (including offensive comments based on ethnicity and nationality)
  • Sexism
  • Homophobia
  • Religious intolerance
  • Cyber bullying
  • Hate speech
  • Derogatory language
  • Comments inciting violence.

We ask that your comments remain relevant to the articles they appear on and do not include general banter or conversation as this dilutes the effectiveness of the comments section.

We strive to make the 702 community a safe and welcoming space for all.

702 reserves the right to: 1) remove any comments that do not follow the above guidelines; and, 2) ban users who repeatedly infringe the rules.

Should you find any comments upsetting or offensive you can also flag them and we will assess it against our guidelines.

702 is constantly reviewing its comments policy in order to create an environment conducive to constructive conversations.

Read More
To buy or not to buy? That is the question

To buy or not to buy? That is the question

The pros and cons of subscribing to versus buying digital content.

It took a war to change shipping. What will it take to change transport?

It took a war to change shipping. What will it take to change transport?

As hype begins to grow around the Hyperloop, will it change how we travel or run out of track?

Scale may no longer be the best way to achieve growth

Scale may no longer be the best way to achieve growth

Grow or die is the law of the jungle, but does it still apply outside of the jungle?

Will 5G communications make access universal or create another digital divide?

Will 5G communications make access universal or create another digital divide?

The super fast new mobile internet may change the world, but it might not be for the better.

How to win elections and influence people

How to win elections and influence people

You could say elections are being disrupted.

Technology disrupted tax income, but nobody escapes taxes

Technology disrupted tax income, but nobody escapes taxes

Digital companies have had a good run, but new taxes are coming.

Popular articles
 The law must change to enable the donation of tons of food going to waste

The law must change to enable the donation of tons of food going to waste

Tatjana von Bormann says the sell-by date and the use by dates are indeed one of the causes unnecessary food waste.

[LISTEN] Black Sash in court to fight against grant deductions

[LISTEN] Black Sash in court to fight against grant deductions

The Black Sash's Lynette Maart says there is an urgent need to protect grant beneficiaries from exploitation.

'Citizens have a right to ask for identification from police during a roadblock'

'Citizens have a right to ask for identification from police during a roadblock'

Major General Michael Mohlala explains the procedure of conducting a roadblock and what to do when you are stopped.

Calls for government to prioritise finding missing fisherman

Calls for government to prioritise finding missing fisherman

Community representative says the allocation of fishing rights is secondary and all they want is to find the missing fisherman.

Gold Fields release financials after job cut announcement

Gold Fields release financials after job cut announcement

Gold Fields spokesperson Sven Lunsche says the company's financial results show that their other mines are doing well.

Marikana widow: 'Priority given to 34 victims but 10 families being ignored'

Marikana widow: 'Priority given to 34 victims but 10 families being ignored'

Widow Of Lonmin security guard at Marikana says life is hard now that she has to live off one salary.

Trollip's job safe for now as no-confidence motion postponed

Trollip's job safe for now as no-confidence motion postponed

The ANC, EFF and other parties were not able to bring their fourth motion of no confidence against NMB Mayor Athol Trollip.

'We are almost done with the Farlam Commission recommendation on Marikana'

'We are almost done with the Farlam Commission recommendation on Marikana'

Police Minister Bheke Cele says all recommendations by the Farlam Commission of Inquiry will be honoured and implemented.

[LISTEN] Is it important to ask: how are you?

[LISTEN] Is it important to ask: how are you?

Callers on the open line debate whether it's inappropriate to greet or not.

'We need history that is able to integrate black and white cricket'

'We need history that is able to integrate black and white cricket'

Eusebius McKaiser hosts a discussion about cricket and society with pundits Lewis Manthata and Ashwin Desai.