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Airbnb pledges to verify 7M listings

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After a bruising week, Airbnb announced several measures Wednesday to bolster consumer trust and better protect the safety of users. The news followed the death of five people after a shooting at an “Airbnb mansion party” in California last week.

In an email to employees, CEO Brian Chesky said the home-sharing platform would start verifying all 7 million listings, a process expected to stretch into late 2020. By Dec. 15 of next year, he wrote, a review of every home and host on Airbnb would be complete, “with the objective of 100 percent verification.”

He did not detail how that process would take place, but said during The New York Times’s DealBook Conference that the review would use a combination of company and community resources - guests, in other words.

“We’re going to make sure that we can stand behind every single listing, every single host to make sure that every single listing is accurate,” he said. “The information’s accurate, the photos are what you say they are, the addresses are accurate, they meet minimum standards, they meet basic safety protocol and the host is who they say they are.”

Wednesday’s announcement also comes nearly a week after Vice published an investigation into what it called “a nationwide web of deception that appeared to span eight cities and nearly 100 property listings - an undetected scam created by some person or organization that had figured out just how easy it is to exploit Airbnb’s poorly written rules.”

Chesky said the company will start asking more specific questions of guests who leave reviews as part of the overhaul.

“I think many of us in this industry . . . are going from a hands-off model where the internet’s an immune system to realizing that’s not really enough, that we have to take more responsibility for the stuff on our platform,” he said. “And I think this has been a gradual, maybe too gradual, transition for our industry.”

The company also said it would put a “guest guarantee” into place starting Dec. 15 of this year, promising to rebook users at an equal or better property or fully refund them if a listing is inaccurate. A new hotline for people who live near Airbnb listings will go into effect Dec. 31, 2019, in the U.S. so people can call and report concerns. It will expand to the rest of the world next year.

And starting this Dec. 15, the company will broaden its screening of “high-risk reservations” to “stop unauthorized parties before they start.”

Chesky had already announced Saturday that Airbnb would ban “party houses” in response to the shooting.

“This is another one of those moments where a tragedy happens and we say, ‘Enough is enough’ and we galvanize,” he said during the DealBook event.

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