We use Airbnb quite a bit, both as hosts and guests, and it is a fantastic business. On top of the extra cash it allows people to earn, it does bring some solid social benefits, perhaps the biggest of which is that, because of online reputations, it encourages people to behave in a very civil and considerate way. It also encourages trade, exchange and interaction with people from different parts of the world. This is the miracle of capitalism, which for several centuries has been the greatest force for social progress, liberalism and peace the world has ever known.
But the entire Airbnb business model also depends on hosts being able to discriminate in choosing who comes to their home, and if these homeowners were subject to the same anti-discrimination laws as hotels, the system would collapse instantly, as it depends on trust and reputation. Indeed, there is a great amount of evidence that Airbnb hosts do racially discriminate, which the company finds embarrassing and takes seriously. It’s this fact that makes Airbnb’s pinkwashing so odd, even more so than Budweiser’s curious historical analogy between German immigration in the 19th century and today’s situation.