Airbnb introduces new anti-party technology in US, Canada

Airbnb is testing new anti-party technology in the US and Canada in its ongoing efforts to fend off home-seeking users to host large, unsanctioned gatherings.

The holiday rental company tells Fast company the new technology aims to identify “potentially risky reservations”. Airbnb will look at factors such as a user’s history of positive reviews and the history of the service, the length of the booking requested, the distance from their home to the booking, and whether it’s booked for a weekend or a weekday.

Short-term rental platforms, such as Airbnb and VRBO, have long struggled with unauthorized parties that take place in bookings. The new technology aims to detect and prevent suspicious bookings from being sent to the host for approval, allowing homeowners to approve bookings without fear of property damage or noise pollution. People who have been blocked from booking a full listing due to the new system can still book a single room in an entire home, as the host is more likely to be on the property or a hotel room.

“As we get more reservations and bookings, we look at how things are trending, how our stats are trending,” says Naba Banerjee, Airbnb’s global head of product, operations and strategy for trust and security. “[W]We’re trying to look at the percentage of security incidents and we’re trying to make sure we launch solutions that are constantly trying to work on that percentage.”

Airbnb has been testing the technology in Australia since October 2021 and says it has seen a 35% drop in unauthorized parties in areas where the pilot was in effect. The safety tool has been rolled out nationwide in Australia and will now be tested in the US and Canada.

The latest update builds on the company’s “under-25” system, which blocks users under the age of 25 from booking entire properties near where they live until they have at least three positive reviews. The company said in a statement that the new system aims to prevent more party-seeking users from booking, “while having less of a blunt impact on guests not trying to throw a party.”

In 2019, Airbnb announced a ban on party houses (houses essentially listed for hosting events) and announced a slew of safety precautions after five people were killed in a shooting that took place at an Airbnb. In August 2020, as the pandemic spread around the world, the company issued a complete ban on parties.

Violence broke out again in April when two minors were killed by gunfire at a large party hosted at an Airbnb rental. And in June, the company announced it was codifying its global ban on “disruptive parties and events,” including open-invitation gatherings. Airbnb said at the time that since it introduced the party ban in August 2020, the number of party reports has fallen by 44% year-on-year. In 2021, more than 6,600 guests were banned from the platform for attempting to violate the party ban, the company added.

Still, the hands-off nature of housing rental company platforms can: make it extremely difficult to track when parties are happening. Often the ad owner is not on site at the property, so guests will check in remotely and often have free range to invite whoever they want.

“Ultimately, we are an open marketplace, we make contacts in the real world and we are often a mirror of society. And no solution is 100% perfect,” says Banerjee.

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