On Monday, Cassandra Fairbanks reported at Big League Politics that the lodging website Airbnb is permanently deleting accounts of users they believe may be travelling to Charlottesville on Saturday to attend the “Unite the Right” rally, citing a report at Gizmodo.
According to Fairbanks, the company claims that by attending the rally, users are violating their terms of service. In a statement provided to Gizmodo, the company confirmed that they are removing users they believe are “antithetical to the Airbnb Community Commitment.”
“In 2016 we established the Airbnb Community Commitment reflecting our belief that to make good on our mission of belonging, those who are members of the Airbnb community accept people regardless of their race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, or age. We asked all members of the Airbnb to affirmatively sign on to this commitment. When through our background check processes or from input of our community we identify and determine that there are those who would be pursuing behavior on the platform that would be antithetical to the Airbnb Community Commitment, we seek to take appropriate action including, as in this case, removing them from the platform.”
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Wait — Background checks? To determine the political point of view of their users? Really?
That’s what it looks like.
In an article entitled, “Airbnb Won’t Put a Roof Over the Heads of Nazis,” Gizmodo said:
This Saturday, Virginia’s Lee Park is slated to be the meeting place of the Unite The Right rally, a much-publicized gathering of far-right personalities and their sycophants. With less than a week to go, Airbnb has taken active measures to delete the accounts of some members the company believes to be staying in Charlottesville for the rally—making lodging for planned attendees like members of the National Socialist Movement that much more difficult.
According to screenshots shared on Twitter, the users have apparently been banned for violating Airbnb’s Terms of Service.
Over the weekend, chatter within far-right spheres alluded to a possible crackdown against those traveling to Virginia to hear white nationalist Richard Spencer, Buzzfeed washout turned fundamentalist Baked Alaska, Augustus Invictus, a one-time Senate hopeful and author of such LinkedIn screeds as Future or Ruin: The Argument for Eugenics and others preach hate in front of a statue of a Confederate general.
The article leaves one thinking that only neo-Nazis are attending the rally, but that’s not the case, as Fairbanks notes.
The speakers at the event are certainly no strangers to controversy, with a lineup that includes Richard Spencer, Timothy Treadstone — better known as Baked Alaska, former Libertarian Senate candidate Augustus Invictus, Pax Dickinson, and Mike Enoch.
The Facebook event page states that the Unite the Right rally was planned “in response to the Alt-Right’s peaceful demonstration in support of the Lee Monument on May 13th, the City of Charlottesville and roving mobs of Antifa have cracked down on the First Amendment rights of conservatives and right wing activists.”
The statement adds, “they have threatened our families, harassed our employers and tried to drive us from public spaces with threats of intimidation. We are not afraid. You will not divide us.”
For many, the move is seen as viewpoint discrimination:
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“Anybody who is not just in the alt-right, but who is conservative, right-wing or cares about civil liberties should start boycotting Airbnb. Airbnb are cancelling people’s reservations to stay in Charlottesville … based on political ideology,” said Jason Kessler, one of those organizing the rally. “We are having our civil rights violated.”
Fairbanks correctly notes that many mainstream conservatives “loudly oppose” the views expressed by some of the speakers, adding that “Airbnb’s actions have started an intense debate about when it is okay to refuse people service. The left constantly demands that private businesses do not have a right to refuse to provide goods or services based on their religious beliefs, for example — baking cakes for gay weddings — yet they seem to believe that it is okay to refuse people service if their political ideas are in contrast to their own.”
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