VRBO and TripAdvisor update traveler security policies

Worldwide: Short-term rental platforms, including Vrbo [an Expedia Group brand] and TripAdvisor, are strengthening their security policies for travelers following allegations of violent crime on Airbnb listings.

The former took the decision to prohibit guests from leaving keys in public places “where the owner, property manager or staff is not present”, while TripAdvisor is also updating its policy. on the secure transfer of keys to customers, a spokesperson for the company told Bloomberg.

Allegations of violent crime on Airbnb ads resurfaced recently, after an Australian tourist was allegedly raped with a knife point at his New York City rental property on New Years Eve six years ago. The woman allegedly obtained the keys to the apartment from a local convenience store without having to provide identification, and upon arrival, her attacker had recovered a double set of keys.

Airbnb spokesman Ben Breit told Bloomberg the company “is working to strengthen our community policies and enforcement procedures” without disclosing specific details about the new key exchange policies.

The allegations prompted rental companies to take responsibility for content posted on their platforms, including from New York State Senator Liz Krueger, who said the safety of residents and tourists was on the line. in danger because users had “no guarantees and no real protection” when staying in a short-term rental.

Airbnb has long disputed arguments that its operations should be restricted by local regulations because it is an “information service provider”, citing section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act. The law provides immunity from civil liability for information service providers who remove or restrict the content of their services that they deem “obscene, obscene, lascivious, dirty, excessively violent, harassing or otherwise objectionable, as such material either or not protected by the Constitution ”.

The issue of the application of security policies on platforms has never been brought to court without first being settled by a lawsuit, in part due to the fact that user disputes are decided confidentially through of Airbnb’s terms of service.

Earlier this year, Democratic Senators Mark Warner, Mazie Hirono and Amy Klobuchar introduced a bill to restrict the protection offered under Section 230, meaning the platforms couldn’t be so easily protected in the event of a suspected violation of federal or state laws or civil actions relating to wrongful death. come to light.

Last month, reports revealed that Airbnb spent around $ 50 million a year to prevent the press from serious incidents at its rentals through the use of a “black box” team.

Money has been given to both hosts and guests so that they do not “imply any liability or liability” on Airbnb. Payments were made in the form of blank checks provided to members of the “black box” team by the company, which went public in December.

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