AirBNB unveils new restrictions in response to violence, but holds back certain data


AirBNB announced new restrictions in response to incidents of violence at some of its rented units in the GTA, but some data is being held back in order mitigate would-be troublemakers, a company executive said in Toronto Wednesday.

Chris Lehane, Senior Vice-President of Global Policy and Communications said users under 25 would not be able to book local home listings in Canada, based on a radius of where they live.

He said that would negate the possibility of bookings from one region in the GTA to another, such as young people living in Toronto, but booking a home in Vaughan. 

"A radius that is certainly informed by our research and our data," he said. "Our data is really compelling." 

He would not reveal what the radius is because they don't want to allow someone to circumvent the system.

"If you're doing a random drug test, by definition, you want it to be random, you don't want to give people the date and time," he said.

Lehane says according to internal data, the demographic of young guests in local areas is largely responsible for incidents of unauthorized parties, with the company adding that between August 1, 2018 and July 31, 2019, only 0.05 percent of trips on AirBNB had a safety-related issue reported by a host or guest. 

However, as for how many incidents were caused by that group, Lehane didn't give specific numbers, instead referring to it as a significant amount. 

NEWSTALK1010 reached out to the company to see how many incidents of violence have occurred in Canada, but was not given any stats beyond the 0.05 per cent figure. 

When asked if that's because the stats aren't being recorded or aren't being released, NEWSTALK1010 did not receive an answer by the time of publishing. 

Those under 25 can still book private rooms in homes and hotel rooms, and there is a way for those under the age to still book a whole home. 

Lehane says if a user has a track record of three or more positive reviews, that passes their threshold. 

"Our research shows that people who have travelled on the platform under the age of 25 more than three times, three times or more, who have gotten positive reviews, their conduct levels are very consistent with the rest of the guests on the platform," he said. 

Lehane admitted this was not a perfect solution and it would be reviewed on an ongoing basis after it's implemented later this month. 

"We certainly expect to see a mitigation in terms of the number of people who fall under that specific category that I have described in terms of them accessing the platform," he said, although they haven't modelled exact numbers. 

The company is also setting up a specialized 24-hour hotline in case neighbours have concerns with guests, as well as a new partnership with the Canadian Doctors for Protection from Guns. 

Dr. Najma Ahmed said her group will receive $300,000 over three years for initiatives on raising awareness about protection from guns, although specifics haven't been developed yet.

"We will go back to our executive and see particularly what the priorities would be for this partnership and we will look to our colleagues at AirBNB to help inform us what their priority would be for this partnership," she said.

Late Friday night, three people killed when gunfire broke out at a party in a downtown Toronto condo unit, rented out on AirBNB. 

Toronto Police are still investigating what led to the shooting, but say it appears one man shot and killed two others, before killing himself.