Hotel Industry Attack Ad Warns: What If Terrorists Use Airbnb?

By Melanie Ehrenkranz on at

According to the Hotel Association of New York City and a New York hotel workers union, we should worry about terrorists using Airbnb.

“Airbnb allows illegal listings on its site, and refuses to hand over the addresses to law enforcement,” an attack ad reads. “Are you at risk?”

The ad then cuts to media from the Manchester terrorist attack, noting that suicide bomber Salman Abedi stayed in a short-term rental. It was not an Airbnb.

The insinuation of the ad requires some mental gymnastics: Because Airbnb doesn’t disclose the exact addresses of New York City hosts, the platform is a magnet for terrorists.

I’m sure the motivation behind the ad has nothing to do with Airbnb’s threat to the hotel industry.

Airbnb called the ad “an outrageous scare tactic by big hotels” in a statement on Monday morning, Gothamist reported. The company does run background checks on hosts and guests, and, according to its website, responds to data requests from US law enforcement under certain conditions: “valid, properly served legal process to the extent permitted by our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, and US law.”

In a rebuttal letter to hotel industry leaders, Airbnb public policy head Josh Meltzer wrote, “First and foremost, Airbnb had nothing to do with this tragedy and using these attacks in a cynical corporate PR campaign is despicable. Your company and the front groups you fund may oppose Airbnb and middle class people who share their homes, but using a global terrorist attack to protect your bottom line is beyond the pale and should have no place in any civil discourse.”

But it’s worth noting that while the claim that Airbnb enables terrorism is without merit, nay, a load of fear-mongering bullshit, the short-term rental platform is not without legitimate controversies. Airbnb has a racism problem on its platform, it was caught manipulating data to make itself look better to the public, and its CEO has personally violated San Francisco’s short term rental regulations.

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