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Airbnb to cancel all Washington DC reservations during inauguration week

The Guardian - Wed Jan 13 19:29

Airbnb will block and cancel all reservations in the Washington DC area during the week of the presidential inauguration.

The decision, announced by the San Francisco-based short-term rental site on Wednesday, comes amid concerns over renewed violence during the 20 January event following the attack on the US Capitol last week.

Airbnb initially announced it would review reservations in the area ahead of the inauguration and bar any guests associated with hate groups or violent activity, but later decided to widen its action.

The company declined to say how many reservations were cancelled. .

Guests who lost their reservations will be refunded in full and hosts will be reimbursed the money they would have earned. Reservations at HotelTonight, a service owned by Airbnb that handles last-minute deals at top-rated hotels, will also be cancelled.

“We are continuing our work to ensure hate group members are not part of the Airbnb community,” Airbnb said in a corporate blogpost.

Following the riot on 6 January, Airbnb investigated whether people involved had accounts on the platform, after learning their names through media reports and law enforcement sources. It found numerous individuals associated with known hate groups and banned them from the service.

Airbnb has had a policy of removing guests who are confirmed to be members of hate groups since 2017, when it blocked guests who were headed to a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Airbnb’s measures come as tech companies face increased scrutiny for their roles in enabling violence such as the Capitol event.

In the past week, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and YouTube have suspended Donald Trump from posting on their platforms. Twitter removed more than 70,000 accounts related to QAnon, a conspiracy theory that motivated some of those who stormed the Capitol. Facebook has suspended most uses of the phrase or hashtag “Stop the Steal”, used by those campaigning to overturn the 2020 presidential election results.

Many companies – including Airbnb – are also committing not to give political donations to the Republicans who voted against certifying the results of the election last week. Others taking that stand include Marriott, AT&T, and Walmart.

Airbnb’s political action committee donated $866,519 to candidates and political parties in the 2020 election cycle, according to Open Secrets, which monitors campaign finance donations. Joe Biden was the biggest recipient of Airbnb donations.

The Associated Press contributed to this report