The women decided to speak publicly for the first time to call on the company to remove a longstanding forced-arbitration clause in its 10,000-word terms of service that neither of them said they were aware of when they used the platform. They said arbitration would silence their voices and keep the issue of sexual assault at Airbnb listings hidden.
Airbnb said on Friday, after being informed of the women’s statements, that it would change its terms of service this fall to no longer require arbitration in cases involving the sexual assault or sexual harassment of guests and hosts. It also said it hasn’t enforced the policy since January 2019, although it didn’t make any announcement at the time or change the terms of service that its 150 million users must accept to register on the site.
Arbitration is “one of the ways large corporations exert power and control over survivors,” said Latifa Lyles, vice president for advocacy and survivor initiatives at the anti-harassment organisation Time’s Up.
Some companies distanced themselves from mandatory arbitration during the #MeToo movement. Starting in 2017, Microsoft Corp., Google, Facebook Inc. – and Airbnb – removed binding arbitration requirements for sexual assault and sexual harassment claims filed by employees. Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc. went even further, changing their terms of service to allow passengers and drivers to file such cases in court.