Airbnb turns its anti-partying tech on American lodgers

Looking to book a large house on a weekend? You'll have to clear a few hurdles

Pleased with the "success" of a pilot program in Australia, Airbnb is bringing its "anti-party technology" to the US and Canada. 

The lodging app claimed this tech can automatically identify so-called "high-risk reservations," aka parties, and block them.

Airbnb said it piloted the system from October, and said it found a 35 percent drop in unauthorized parties – not exactly a 100 percent cut, we note – in the areas of Australia where it was in effect. With the Aussie pilot phase over and the feature rolled out across Down Under, Airbnb said it's "hoping for similar success as we begin testing this in the US and Canada." By similar success, surely it doesn't mean a system that only clocks one out of three unauthorized parties.

Back in August 2020, Airbnb enacted a ban on all parties largely in response to the COVID-19 pandemic but also – in our view – because big parties tended to end in property damage, violence, or annoyed neighbors, and Airbnb didn't need the negative press every time a blow up or murder happened.

The biz said it has always banned "unauthorized parties," meaning if you were renting a property whose owner said parties were forbidden, you had to stick to that rule, and most owners had a no-party rule. Then that unauthorized party ban was widened to all parties, and the occupancy of Airbnb rentals was capped at 16 people; in June this year, the biz announced these rules are now permanent.

According to Airbnb, the anti-party tool is supposed to help it crack down on these gatherings in an automated way, and it works by reviewing a number of data points, such as the user's personal info and the particular reservation. "Factors like history of positive reviews (or lack of positive reviews), length of time the guest has been on Airbnb, length of the trip, distance [from a guest's home] to the listing, weekend vs. weekday," and many others are considered, the company said, on announcing the upgrade. 

"This system is more robust and sophisticated" than simply (say) checking people's ages, it told The Register on Wednesday. "We anticipate that this new system will help prevent more bad actors on our platform while having less of a blunt impact on guests who are not trying to throw a party."

Airbnb has special rules for people aged under 25 who wish to book rentals, such as preventing those peeps from booking an entire home near where they live without at least three positive reviews. Users who were stopped from making full-house reservations were still allowed to book single rooms and hotels through Airbnb. That same policy still applies, so folks who are filtered out by the anti-party system can still make a booking – just not one conducive to a party. 

What was unclear from Airbnb's statement was whether such a ban only applied to the one reservation or followed the user as a flag on their account. Airbnb also made no mention of an appeals process, whether age will continue to be a factor, or if decisions are reviewed by a human.

Despite the emphasis on short-term party-goers, Airbnb has said that long-term stays "of 28 days or more" remain its fastest-growing category, increasing nearly 25 percent from a year ago and by almost 90 percent from Q2 2019. The company said during its Q2 results earlier this month that active listings for destinations in the countryside were up nearly 50 percent compared to Q2 2019, driven by continued demand for "non-urban nights." ®

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