In March of last year, Gregory Selden, a 25-year-old from Virginia, was looking for a place to stay in Philadelphia. Selden, who is black, says a host rejected his request to book their place, but happily accepted requests he sent from two fake profiles featuring pictures of white guys. Selden sued Airbnb in federal court Tuesday, alleging that the company ignored his complaints about the discrimination.
Selden tweeted about the incident earlier this month, sparking the viral hashtag #Airbnbwhileblack:
Airbnb requires that guests and hosts include photos of themselves, which many people of color say has led to rooms being suspiciously and consistently unavailable when they try to book them:
As NPR reported in April, two academics at Harvard Business School ran an experiment where they found that Airbnb users with stereotypically white-sounding names had more success booking rooms: “African American sounding names were roughly 16 percent less likely to be accepted than their white-sounding counterparts.”
In his suit, which you can read in full here, Selden alleges that the Philadelphia host, identified only as “Paul,” violated federal civil rights laws by denying him accommodation based on race, and that the company ignored his complaints about the incident. Selden is seeking to file the suit as a class-action, to represent other users who say they’ve had similar experiences.
Screenshot via Twitter/Greg Selden