Airbnb is piloting new anti-party technology in the U.S. and Canada in its ongoing efforts to fend off users who are looking to book a house to throw large, unapproved gatherings.
The vacation rental company tells Fast Company the new tech is aimed at identifying “potentially high-risk reservations.” Airbnb will be looking at factors like a user’s history of positive reviews and history with the service, length of the requested booking, distance from their home to the booking, and whether it’s booked for a weekend or weekday.
Short-term rental platforms, like Airbnb and Vrbo, have long struggled with unauthorized parties taking place at bookings. The new tech is meant to flag and prevent suspect bookings from being sent to the host for approval, so homeowners can approve bookings without fear of property damage or noise complaints. People who have been blocked from booking an entire listing because of the new system will still be able to book a single room in a whole residence, since the host is more likely to be on the premise, or a hotel room.
“As we get more reservations and bookings, we look at how things are trending, how our metrics are trending,” says Naba Banerjee, Airbnb’s global head of product, operations, and strategy for trust and safety. “[W]e try to look at the rate of safety incidents, and we try to make sure that we are launching solutions that constantly try to work on that rate.”
Airbnb has been testing the tech in Australia since October 2021 and says it’s seen a 35% drop in unauthorized parties in areas where the pilot was in effect. The safety tool has rolled out nationwide in Australia and will now be tested in the U.S. and Canada.
The latest update builds off the company’s “under-25” system, which blocks users under the age of 25 from booking entire properties close to where they live until they have at least three positive reviews. The company said in a statement that the new system is meant to prevent more party-seeking users from booking, “while having less of a blunt impact on guests who are not trying to throw a party.”
In 2019, Airbnb announced a ban on party houses (homes that are essentially listed for the sole purpose of hosting events) and announced a slew of safety features, after five people were killed in a shooting that took place at an Airbnb. In August 2020, as the pandemic spread across the globe, the company enacted a full ban on parties.
Violence broke out again this April when two minors were killed from gunfire at a large party that was hosted at an Airbnb rental. And in June the company announced that it was codifying its global ban on “disruptive parties and events,” which include open-invite gatherings. Airbnb said at the time that since it implemented the party ban in August 2020, it saw a 44% year-over-year drop in the rate of party reports. In 2021, more than 6,600 guests were suspended from the platform for attempting to violate the party ban, the company added.
Still, the hands-off nature of home rental companies’ platforms can make it extremely difficult to track when parties are taking place. Oftentimes, the owner of the listing won’t be on site at the property, so guests will check in remotely and often have free range to invite whomever they want.
“We are, at the end of the day, an open marketplace, we are making real-world connections, and we are often a mirror of society. And no solution is 100% perfect,” Banerjee says.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jessica Bursztynsky is a staff writer for Fast Company, covering the gig economy and other consumer internet companies. She previously covered tech and breaking news for CNBC.