Airbnb says it's using AI to police Halloween parties

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Airbnb announced it is deploying an “AI-driven anti-party system” across North America in hopes of shuttering Halloween parties before they start.

The short-term rental company, which is facing increased scrutiny in B.C. and other jurisdictions for its business model that some allege has contributed to rising housing prices, claims its artificial intelligence software has already prevented thousands of potential problematic bookings.

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“While disruptive parties are rare, we want to try to reduce the risk of them even more,” said Naba Banerjee, head of trust and safety at Airbnb. “Our AI anti-party system is an important tool in helping us to do that, and we’re optimistic it will have a positive impact for our community and neighbourhoods this Halloween.”

Airbnb adds that the system uses AI and machine learning to try to identify potentially higher-risk one-night and two-night booking attempts for entire home listings and prevent those bookings from being made.

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The system analyzes hundreds of signals relating to the booking attempt that could signal a party, including the length of the trip, the renters’ distance to the listing and whether the booking is last-minute.

In addition to limiting one and two-night bookings, the company is looking to limit Halloween parties by making guests attest that they understand Airbnb bans parties and they face being banned from the platform if they break that rule.

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The company says it followed a similar approach last Halloween and turned away “thousands” of potential bookings, including more than 15,000 bookings in California alone, and saw a decrease in reports of disruptive and unauthorized parties over the holiday weekend.

The company has also engaged local law enforcement agencies to share information on its measures to deter incidents and encourages neighbours who suspect a party may be occurring at a rental property to report their concerns online.

Since introducing its “global party ban” in August 2020, Airbnb claims it has seen a 55 per cent reduction in the rate of party reports and that just 0.039 per cent of global reservations in 2022 resulted in an allegation of a party.

However, hosts continue to note the flaws in Airbnb’s coverage policy, including a San Francisco-based host who recently claimed she is homeless and out $300,000 after guests flooded her unit in the city’s Mission District.

Renters who get denied a spot on Airbnb will be directed to one of its partner hotel companies, Banerjee told BBC.

Other short-term rental companies, like Turo, which specializes in car sharing, also use AI technology to weed out potentially problematic renters.

The DataRobot AI Cloud Platform is used by the company in its pricing, risk levels and marketing initiatives.

Turo’s director of data science, Thibaut Joncquez, says the technology allows him to better manage his time and “think more strategically about how to use data science for different use cases.”

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