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Airbnb deploys anti-party technology after success in Australia

group of friends clinking glasses on alcohol on roof party

Airbnb releases new anti-party technology following a successful pilot in Australia.

Airbnb first changed its position on parties in August 2020 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Initially, this party ban was designed to enforce social distancing efforts, especially after Airbnb became a popular option to host events after bars, restaurants, and clubs had closed. The temporary ban during COVID-19 set an occupancy limit of 16 people per Airbnb listing. During its trial phase in Australia, unauthorised parties were reduced by 35 per cent and the number of complaints about parties dropped by 44 per cent. As such, Airbnb decided to make these changes permanent.

The anti-party technology works by identifying “high-risk reservations”. High-risk reservations are calculated based on a history of positive reviews (or lack thereof), the length of time a user has been on the platform, the length of the stay, the distance of the listings, and the date of the listings, particularly in relation to weekdays and weekends. By crunching the numbers, Airbnb’s algorithm can identify users who may host unauthorised parties at Airbnb households and negatively affect hosts, neighbours, and the surrounding community. The anti-party technology does not completely lock these users out of Airbnb but is likely to prevent users from making general reservations and instead provide high-risk users with private rooms where the host is likely to be present.

Airbnb acknowledged that despite being optimistic, no system is perfect. There leaves a lot of room for debate as to whether algorithms can unilaterally determine if an individual may take full advantage of a platform. Inherent biases in developer code and outdated data may result in unfair bans in the long run and undermine regulation and policy.

The anti-party technology will now be implemented across the US and Canada, and it will be interesting to see whether it has the same success.

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