Airbnb Safety: Madrid Host Sexual Assault Allegations Raise Questions About Website Liability | The Independent

The apparent safety of Airbnb, the groundbreaking website that allows people to rent properties to travelers online, has again been called into question after an American teenager was sexually assaulted in a listed apartment.

Some 50 million people in 190 countries have used Airbnb, which was valued at $25.5 billion in Junesince its inception seven years ago.

The website has a number of safeguards in place to protect hosts and guests, including a 24/7 support team.

However, like other tech-savvy startups including Uber, while Airbnb has transformed the hospitality industry worldwide, it has faced troubling start-up issues.

The experience of 19-year-old Jacob Lopez is one example, after a stay with an Airbnb host left the teenager in need of trauma therapy.

After a successful stint with the company in Brazil, Lopez decided to use the service again for a trip to the Spanish capital of Madrid.

When Lopez called his mother, Michaela Giles, to tell her that his host had locked him in an apartment and was threatening him to perform a sex act, she called Airbnb for help, the New York Times reported.

But staff did not call the police or reveal the address where his son was staying and told him to contact the police and ask them to call the company instead.

Giles said the number given to her by staff got disconnected several times and she couldn’t reach the Airbnb contact. Lopez said he was sexually assaulted that night and later released by his host.

The woman, who recently changed her gender, denies the claim and accuses Lopez of being transphobic.

Nonetheless, the incident laid bare the problems facing the hugely popular website.

The company said The Independent of the incident: “While the issue of sexual assault is a global challenge – and different laws in different countries impact what a web platform can do to help – there is nothing more important for us than the safety of our community.

A spokesperson added: “On the weekend it happened, over 800,000 people stayed on Airbnb globally and 70,000 stayed on Airbnb in Spain. But even one incident is one too many, and while no industry has a 100% safety record, that’s what we strive for.

“This situation was unique. We realize we can learn a lot from this incident and we can do better. We are clarifying our policies so that our team will always contact law enforcement if we are notified of an emergency in Safety is our number one priority and we want our hosts and guests to receive as much help as possible.”

Since Airbnb’s founding in 2008, he’s been forced to deal with a number of nightmarish situations, including a host returning home to find her house covered in trash, used condoms and what appeared to be human feces, Business Intern reported.

Another incident saw a guest arrive to find a property littered with meth pipes, Technological crunch reported.

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