Airbnb Offers Explanation for Deleting Listings Prior to Releasing Data

Last December, Airbnb released a massive dataset covering November 2014 through Nov. 1, 2015, about its business in New York City. The data provided information on thousands of hosts in the city including statistics such as host earnings, the types of listings, and how often people rent out their homes. This action was taken to counter the image portrayed by the New York state attorney general, who has accused Airbnb of enabling illegal hotels. Airbnb had pledged to be an “open and transparent” company that would work closely with cities to ensure it pays its fair share of taxes. The release of this data was part of an agreement with the attorney general.

Recently, however, independent researchers from the website Inside Airbnb are now alleging that Airbnb tampered with the data that was made publicly available, deleting as many as 1,000 listings in an attempt to "paint a misleading picture" of its NYC operations. Their report compared two different datasets using Airbnb listings going as far back as 2013. According to the report, "Airbnb ensured a favorable picture by carrying out a one-time targeted purge of over 1,000 listings," and used the days immediately following that purge as representative of its operations. The listings that were deleted were for "entire home" rentals, which have been targeted by critics as being the biggest source of illegal activity on the site.

Airbnb has responded by releasing a letter addressed to the New York State Legislature that explains its process and talks about the company's commitment to its Community Compact, a set of core principles with which it hopes to operate. The letter states, “Following the announcement of the Community Compact last November, we removed approximately 1,500 listings from our platform in New York City that were controlled by commercial operators and did not reflect Airbnb’s vision for our community. This was not the first time we removed listings from our platform. Over the past few years we have removed thousands of listings in New York City because they were not permanent homes, as well as for other quality issues. . . “