People who rent out their homes through Airbnb will have to sign up to a new non-discrimination policy or face being suspended from the service.
The US-based holiday rental company, which has about 7,200 hosts in Ireland, unveiled a new policy on Thursday, under which hosts will have to commit to welcoming guests "of all backgrounds, with authentic hospitality and open minds".
The company said that joining its community as a host or a guest meant “becoming part of a community of inclusion”.
Its said its mission was to ensure “that everyone can belong, and feels welcome, anywhere”.
“Bias, prejudice, racism, and hatred have no place on our platform or in our community,” the new policy states.
Hosts will be required to follow “all applicable laws that prohibit discrimination based on such factors as race, religion and national origin”, but must commit to doing more than comply with the minimum requirements established by law.
The policy says Airbnb is “at its core, an open community dedicated to bringing the world closer together by fostering meaningful, shared experiences among people from all parts of the world.
“Our community includes millions of people from virtually every country on the globe.
“It is an incredibly diverse community, drawing together individuals of different cultures, values and norms.”
Hosts and guests will also have to commit to a policy of mutual respect in their interactions and encounters.
“Airbnb appreciates that local laws and cultural norms vary around the world and expects hosts and guests to abide by local laws, and to engage with each other respectfully, even when views may not reflect their beliefs or upbringings.”
The company said its members brought to its community “an incredible diversity of background experiences, beliefs and customs”.
While the policy is aimed at all hosts, specific guidance is issued for those in the US.
It says hosts there may not decline a guest based on race, colour, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status.
They may not decline to rent to a guest based on gender unless the host shares living spaces such as a bathroom, kitchen or common areas with the guest.
However, it says hosts may decline to rent based on factors that are not prohibited by law.
For example, they may decline to rent to guests with pets or to guests who smoke, except where this is prohibited by law.
Hosts who demonstrate “a pattern of rejecting guests from a protected class (even while articulating legitimate reasons), undermine the strength of our community by making potential guests feel unwelcome, and Airbnb may suspend hosts who have demonstrated such a pattern from the Airbnb platform”, it said.
The new policy was flagged by company chief executive Brian Chesky in a blog post in July following the fatal shootings of Alton Sterling in Louisiana, Philando Castile in Minnesota and four police officers in Dallas, Texas.
Mr Chesky said the company believed that “black lives matter” and that it supported those who are “making their voices heard”.
“We also support the brave police officers who often protect peaceful protesters, and who risk their lives every day for all of us.”
He admitted the company had to do more to get its own “house in order” and said it had been talking more openly about discrimination and bias on the platform.
He said it had engaged outside experts and advisors, including former US attorney general Eric Holder and Laura Murphy, former head of the American Civil Liberties Union's Washington legislative office.