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Airbnb Vows to Tackle Sex Trafficking in Rental Homes

Short-term home rental company Airbnb said it would invest in new technology to crack down on modern slavery.

Published
World
3 min read
Airbnb Vows to Tackle Sex Trafficking in Rental Homes

Short-term home rental company Airbnb said on Monday it would invest in new technology to crack down on modern slavery amid concerns that traffickers are turning its properties into "pop-up brothels" to sexually exploit vulnerable women and girls.

Airbnb exclusively told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that it has teamed up with anti-trafficking charity Polaris to train its employees, develop new systems and work with the police to spot signs of slavery and prevent people from being trafficked.

The US-based company – valued at about $31 billion – is part of a growing drive to root out modern slavery from the hospitality sector, mainly the sexual exploitation of women and children.

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Founded in 2008, Airbnb now operates in nearly 200 countries and has facilitated more than 260 million home and room rentals.

We’re taking a modern approach to combating modern slavery by leveraging the innovation of the sharing economy to better spot and stop potential exploitation ahead of time. Exploitation and trafficking are still all too common in today’s society, but we are eager to use our global reach to help assist in the effort to end it once and for all.
Nick Shapiro, global head of trust and risk management, Airbnb to Thomson Reuters Foundation

Airbnb said it would combine its existing risk analysis – from screening every host and guest to trawling through photos to check for signs of exploitation – with data and insight from Polaris, which runs the US National Human Trafficking Hotline.

At least 2,680 slavery victims were identified by Polaris as having been trafficked at hotels and motels in the United States – mostly for sex work – between January 2015 and September 2017.

British lawmakers last year investigated the rise of "pop-up brothels" on rental websites such as Airbnb following reports of temporary brothels springing up across Britain. Sex traffickers in the United States are reported to have used the same tactic.

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Airbnb's anti-slavery push follows similar action by another sharing economy company – the ride-hailing app Uber – which last month said it would teach its drivers across the United States how to spot traffickers and their victims when they hail a car.

"The sharing economy and companies like Airbnb offer new ways to scale up...the fight against trafficking," Brandon Bouchard, a spokesman for US-based Polaris, said by email.

About 25 million people globally were estimated to be trapped in forced labour or sexual exploitation in 2016, according to the United Nations' International Labour Organization (ILO) and human rights group Walk Free Foundation.

(This article has been published in an arrangement with Thomson Reuters Foundation)

(The Quint, in association with BitGiving, has launched a crowdfunding campaign for an 8-month-old who was raped in Delhi on 28 January 2018. The baby girl, who we will refer to as 'Chhutki', was allegedly raped by her 28-year-old cousin when her parents were away. She has been discharged from AIIMS hospital after undergoing three surgeries, but needs more medical treatment in order to heal completely. Her parents hail from a low-income group and have stopped going to work so that they can take care of the baby. You can help cover Chhutki's medical expenses and secure her future. Every little bit counts. Click here to donate.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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