Airbnb’s Empty Tool Chest

This week Airbnb unveiled a new “Policy Tool Chest,” offering “a resource for governments to consider as they draft or amend rules for home sharing.”

Unfortunately, instead of meaningful policy solutions aimed at addressing the growing problem of commercial operators abusing the platform, it’s mostly more of what we’ve come to expect from Airbnb: self-regulation, backroom tax deals and anonymized data with virtually no transparency. All wrapped up with a healthy dose of self-congratulation.

Similar to Airbnb’s “Community Compact” of last year, this new “Tool Chest” is just another puff report. In fact, Airbnb even dares to highlight how it has followed through on all their promises from the compact.

Not quite.

Skift’s Deanna Ting hits the nail on the head with her analysis:

But one thing that seems to be missing from its current public policy stance is this: Although Airbnb is able to design its platform in such a way as to limit the number of home listings an individual host can have, or limit the number of nights a host can share his or her home in cities such as London and Amsterdam, the company is not yet designing its platform to enforce existing short-term rental laws. The company also has yet to take broader steps to inform its users, explicitly, what the local laws are.

Perhaps, future versions of Airbnb’s Policy Tool Chest can address a strategy that includes compliance with laws that are currently in existence, in addition to working with cities to draft improved, more common sense laws to replace them.

Once again, Airbnb shifts all the burden of following the rules to hosts, while using flimsy arguments to shield itself from any actual responsibility.

Maybe it’s time for Airbnb to drill down and get serious about regulation instead of letting their hosts get hammered.