Airbnb is setting a dangerous precedent with actions threaten freedom of speech and assembly.
The short-term rental giant is deactivating accounts of people who were reportedly planning to attend a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, scheduled for August 12, 2017, Gizmodo reported. The guests were going to Unite the Right a rally planned to protest attempts to remove a statue of Confederate icon Robert E. Lee from a park in the city.
Airbnb’s 21st Century Blacklist
The danger here is obvious a company is deliberately refusing service to people that espouse a particular political opinion. Worse it sounds as if Airbnb has revived the McCarthyist tactic of blacklisting; that is refusing to employ or serve anybody that espouses certain political beliefs.
What is the difference between Airbnb’s actions and the 1950s black list maintained by Hollywood studios; that kept writers, actors, directors and others with Communist sympathies from working? After all Communists; like White Supremacists, held ugly beliefs that many viewed as un-American and a danger to society.
It sounds as if Airbnb is creating a 21st Century blacklist. Worse it sounds as if the company is redefining free speech and deliberately denying the rights of certain individuals in the process.
Airbnb’s Frightening Redefinition of Free Speech
Particularly disturbing is this chilling statement that Airbnb sent to TechCrunch after the Charlottesville story broke:
“In 2016 we established the Airbnb Community Commitment reflecting our belief that to make good on our mission of belonging, those who are members of the Airbnb community accept people regardless of their race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, or age.”
Notice that political belief is not included in Airbnb’s statement. It sounds as if Airbnb hosts are free to deny rooms to anybody traveling for political reasons. Under those rules it perfectly okay to deny a room to a union organizer, a pro-life activist, a pro-choice activist, an animal rights activist, a socialist, a civil rights activist, a peace activist, an environmentalist, a representative of the National Rifle Association, a member of the Flat Earth Society, or a person in town for a Democratic or Republican Party event.
This precedent is dangerous; because it would enable corporations to deny services to anybody that disagreed with their policies or politics. Worse it takes political correctness to its’ logical conclusion; suppressing free speech while paying lip service to tolerance.
Airbnb’s White Supremacist Ban is Probably Unconstitutional
The good news is that the courts will probably throw this horrendous policy out. It certainly violates both the letter and the intent of the First Amendment to the US Constitution.
That amendment states:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Airbnb is certainly violating the exercise of freedom speech and the right to peaceably assemble with its policy. Hopefully groups like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Institute for Justice will get involved here and get an injunction from a federal judge.
A good way to file such a suit would be to find some African American who needs extra cash to pay the mortgage; and now cannot rent his or her spare room to some alt right crank. A few news stories; with pictures of the person’s children, would quickly force Airbnb to back down and probably apologize.
The company’s actions are a deliberate effort to strip a particular group of individuals of those rights. The Airbnb action should scare us to death because it exposes the dark side of Silicon Valley.
Airbnb’s Suppression of Free Speech Exposes the Dark Side of Silicon Valley
Airbnb’s action exposes the greatest danger from the Silicon Valley technocracy. The danger is that the technocrats will use their solutions to strip critics; or troublemakers, of their rights.
Skeptics and conspiracy theorists will wonder if Airbnb’s action is a test run; for a policy of systematically purging all individuals that disagree with the views of the technocratic elite, from the infrastructure of modern life. The nightmare would be a world in which a critic of Microsoft would not be able to buy and sell on Amazon; search on Google, use Apple Pay, get a car through Uber, book an airline ticket on Priceline, order food through GrubHub, or reserve a room through Airbnb.
Once the Neo Nazis are purged the technocrats would start targeting all who disagree with them; including environmentalists, luddites, socialists, Communists, Marxists, union activists, libertarians, feminists, Christians, Muslims, pacifists, Black Lives Matter activists, traditionalists and conservatives of all stripes, for removal. Airbnb is demonstrating totalitarian tendencies worthy of the People’s Republic of China.
Airbnb’s actions will remind many of the Great Firewall of China; which blocks all criticism of the Chinese Communist Party from the internet in the People’s Republic. It also sounds like the behavior of the Communist states; which tried to purge all critics and dissidents from society.
All who care about liberty, law and human rights need to pay close attention to Airbnb’s actions. The short-term rental company is demonstrating how modern technology can become a grave threat to freedom itself.