The online hospitality service Airbnb is back in the news for its commitment to being inclusive, but this time that commitment has taken the form of deleting accounts and canceling bookings of users they suspect of being connected to a political rally involving far-right, "pro-white" activists.
Attendees of the "Unite the Right" rally scheduled to be held in Charlottesville, Virginia on Saturday, Airbnb told NBC News, are "pursuing behavior on the platform that would be antithetical to the Airbnb Community Commitment." For this reason, their bookings have been canceled and their accounts deleted.
The "Community Commitment" is a pledge the company asks its users to take to treat all customer with "respect and without judgment":
We believe that no matter who you are, where you are from, or where you travel, you should be able to belong in the Airbnb community. By joining this community, you commit to treat all fellow members of this community, regardless of race, religion, national origin, disability, sex, gender, sexual orientation or age, with respect and without judgment or bias.
The company told NBC News that it was informed that some of its users were involved in an event which was organized by the white nationalist, anti-Semitic site The Daily Stormer.
"Concerned Airbnb users flagged the thread, leading the company to investigate potential violations of its user contract, which calls for unbiased hospitality," NBC News reports. After its investigation, Airbnb removed those they believed were connected with the event, which is expected to include over a thousand people.
One of the organizers of the event, a self-described "pro-white" activist, Jason Kessler, decried Airbnb's banning of attendees as "outrageous" and suggested that legal action should be taken.
"It's the racial targeting of white people for their ethnic advocacy," Kessler told NBC in an email. "Would Airbnb cancel the service of black nationalists or Black Lives Matter activists for their social media activity? Of course not!"
The event, Kessler told fellow "pro-white" activists in a Periscope live stream on Monday, was to fight back against "white genocide":
[The Robert E. Lee Statue in Emancipation Park] is the first and foremost reason that we’re having this rally, is for that park and for that statue. It’s about white genocide. It’s about the replacement of our people, culturally and ethnically. And that statue is the focal point of everything.
The Daily Stormer advertises the event as a way to "end Jewish influence in America" and accuses the "Jew Mayor and his Negroid Deputy" of trying to sabotage their efforts to organize to protect the Lee Monument:
Although the rally was initially planned in support of the Lee Monument, which the Jew Mayor and his Negroid Deputy have marked for destruction, it has become something much bigger than that. It is now an historic rally, which will serve as a rallying point and battle cry for the rising Alt-Right movement.
It is expected to be the biggest event of it’s kind in living memory.
Already, hundreds of valiant pro-Whites of all stripes have pledged to attend, and our opponents claim to be busing in trust fund antifa commies and BLM baboons by the thousands. Rumor has it, they have recruited the denizens of dozens of monkey cages in large metropolitan zoos to help fill the quotas, and to more effectively assure a massive chimpout.
So does Airbnb have the legal right to delete accounts? It is a private company which should be able to decide who does and doesn't use its services, or at least that is what conservatives maintain. The company's own commitment to "treat all fellow members of this community, regardless of race, religion, national origin, disability, sex, gender, sexual orientation or age, with respect and without judgment or bias," certainly offers the rationale for its exclusion of anyone who is openly racist, as the organizers clearly are.
NBC asked Clay Hansen, the executive director of a nonpartisan free speech institute in Charlottesville, for his opinion, and he said that while the company's actions "wouldn't necessarily comport with general free speech principles, they are a private company and are entitled to enact and enforce their terms of service as they see fit."
While the Unite the Right as described by the Daily Stormer is clearly racist and morally reprehensible, Airbnb's precedent of banning those the company believes to be "far-right" — a subjective description that leftist partisan groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center increasingly ascribe to mainstream conservatives — is a slippery slope. And what about groups like Black Lives Matter, which has many members who embrace black nationalism and rail against "whiteness"? Will Airbnb ban them as well now? It will be interesting to see how the company handles this precedent going forward. In the meantime, Kessler and his fellow "pro-white" activists are going to have to make other accommodations for their rally.