When the ‘sharing economy’ doesn’t

first_img Researcher outlines how ‘bias score’ could be calculated in online delivery Related GAZETTE: Is Airbnb aware this is going on?EDELMAN: We know that Airbnb is aware of the problem. We have received quite a few emails from concerned guests and prospective guests. They alerted us to their negative experiences and the problems that they had. Many of them also forwarded us their correspondence with Airbnb. They’d write in to support, they’d complain, “I requested this property. I was rejected, and the host said the property was taken. But then I looked the next day, and it was still listed as available.” The guests who reported this problem were systematically African-American.GAZETTE: How do these findings compare to your earlier research on Airbnb rentals and to prior literature about racial discrimination in instruments like resumes and online dating profiles?LUCA: We’ve now looked at these problems both from the perspective of Airbnb guests facing discrimination and hosts facing discrimination. You’re absolutely right that discrimination seems to be far-reaching, but fortunately some solutions are available. Part of our insight from this project is that a platform’s choices determine to a large extent the amount of discrimination that occurs on the platform.Fortunately, experience from other contexts is quite promising on this front. Economists Cecilia Rouse and Claudia Goldin [of the Harvard Economics Department] wrote an important paper about discrimination in musicians’ auditions for symphony orchestras. They begin with the observation that orchestras used to be dominated by men but over time became more balanced. They show that much of this shift was driven by a simple change — having musicians audition behind a screen, so that the evaluator could hear but not see the person playing. When musicians played behind a screen, women and people of Asian-American descent were more likely to be chosen. One doesn’t imagine that the evaluation committee set out to discriminate. But putting up a screen helped decision-makers ignore what the musicians looked like and focus on substance.Airbnb could implement the same kind of concealment. Hosts need certain information to evaluate a guest: the number and score of reviews the guest received from prior stays through Airbnb, whether the guest has linked accounts from other services, whether the guest has Facebook friends who have been good Airbnb guests. In fact, Airbnb collects and organizes all this information. But with that information on hand, what exactly does a host gain from seeing a guest’s name and picture? The factual information is so much more valuable. Once a host knows all of that about a guest, should the guest’s name or photo make a difference? Making names and photographs less prominent (or removing them altogether) would reduce the extent of discrimination, while retaining the valuable information that Airbnb appropriately and usefully provides.There are other possibilities, too. Airbnb has a function called “instant book” which allows a guest to choose to stay in a property without a further screening process by a host. By skipping the step in which hosts have the opportunity to consider irrelevant information about race, this eliminates the problem of discrimination. Of course, many hosts are hesitant to allow their properties to be made available for instant booking, so this isn’t likely to be a complete solution.GAZETTE: Although the company argues that it doesn’t decide who gets to rent a property — the hosts do — does Airbnb bear any legal or moral responsibility for the actions of their customers, since they’re facilitating these transactions?EDELMAN: These questions are timeless. They go back to Cain and Abel: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Lawyers call this question secondary liability: To what extent is one person or company liable when another takes some action that causes harm to, typically, a third person? Airbnb is providing a listing service: designing that listing service; controlling what information is available; collecting fees in proportion to dollars spent. These facts provide a reasonable basis for a finding that Airbnb is liable for the underlying discriminatory treatment. Now, Airbnb would argue the opposite, that they’re just a passive booking platform.These questions have not been litigated yet as to Airbnb. Some of them have been litigated as to Uber, bedfellows with Airbnb in transforming a different portion of the economy. In Uber, the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission just last month issued a lengthy decision that, among other things, had to engage with these same questions. To what extent is Uber responsible for the decisions and actions of its drivers? They held that Uber holds itself out as an integrated offering. The service is designed, managed, built, billed, and controlled by Uber. On Airbnb, the guests and hosts have somewhat more say than drivers and passengers on Uber. For example, an Airbnb guest picks a specific host, whereas an Uber passenger really doesn’t pick a particular driver, nor vice-versa. Certainly it would be an interesting case, hard-fought on both sides. I don’t think the answer is certain. Ultimately, Airbnb styles itself as being a liberal, nondiscriminatory, forward-thinking company, and actions speak louder than words. So I’m hoping to see some actions in the steps Airbnb takes to reduce discrimination going forward.GAZETTE: What should lawmakers do to curb this practice, and are there broader policy implications for other companies in the “sharing economy?”EDELMAN: To the narrow question of discrimination, lawmakers could write a law that left no doubt about their jurisdiction’s requirements. But I’m not sure that there would be an easy political consensus on such a law. Some people are firmly of the view that a host offering rooms in his or her own dwelling is not a normal landlord and should not be subject to the full nondiscrimination laws that apply in other contexts. Other people would see the Airbnb host basically running a little hotel, and wouldn’t want to offer any exception to legal duties that have been on the books for decades already. So it might be hard to get consensus to pass a law on this subject. Separately, I wouldn’t be shocked if state and city nondiscrimination authorities wanted to take enforcement actions based on what we’ve already found. In fact, a couple of them have been in touch with us already. They seem to think, as we do, that there’s no place for discrimination in online marketplaces. The technological innovations that accompany the “sharing economy” have made once-tedious transactions like selling stuff in your garage, finding a ride, or picking up freelance work faster and easier than ever. But according to a new working paper from researchers at Harvard Business School (HBS), the very online platforms that ease access for users can have ugly unintended consequences, including racial discrimination. In a study of Airbnb’s rental practices, HBS Associate Professor Benjamin Edelman, Assistant Professor Michael Luca, and doctoral student Daniel Svirsky looked at about 6,400 listings in Baltimore, Dallas, Los Angeles, St. Louis, and Washington, D.C., last July. After creating 20 identical but fictitious profiles of 10 men and 10 women, they assigned half of each group an either distinctively white- or distinctively African-American-sounding name and then sent messages to Airbnb hosts inquiring about housing availability for a single weekend.Hosts were 16 percent less likely to approve profiles of people who appeared to be African-American than profiles with white-sounding names, the study found. That discrimination rate remained constant regardless of whether the hosts themselves were white, African-American, male, or female. It also held steady regardless of whether a rental was pricey or inexpensive, or whether the guest and host would share the property during the stay. Edelman, Luca, and Svirsky spoke with the Gazette about their findings and the potential legal and policy implications of this research. GAZETTE: Can you explain what you were trying to find in the study?EDELMAN: There’s so much to like about new online services. They can be faster and cheaper and more convenient. The glass is definitely at least half-full. But how could they be better? We see a few areas for improvement. One that really caught our eye was the prospect of discrimination, where certain users are treated differently due to irrelevant factors such as race. So we set out to see whether that was, in fact, a problem on Airbnb, a popular platform for short-term accommodations. We found that indeed it was a problem. In particular, black guests tend to have trouble getting approved to stay in a host’s Airbnb listing. And that problem actually seems to be quite far-reaching across the spectrum of properties, across the United States, across a variety of dimensions.GAZETTE: Did these results surprise you?EDELMAN: Looking at the Airbnb site, we suspected there would be a problem because Airbnb presents hosts with information that almost invites them to discriminate. In particular, when applying to a host, a guest’s name and face are extremely prominent. Given what is known about discrimination and biases, and given the design of Airbnb’s service, it would have been surprising if guest race didn’t have an effect. That said, we were surprised by the persistence and prevalence of discrimination. For example, we found discrimination both among small mom-and-pop hosts, and also for larger hosts who rent out multiple properties and have little interaction with guests.GAZETTE: Was it surprising that even African-American hosts discriminated against African-American guests?LUCA: We didn’t have a strong instinct one way or the other. But we were not shocked by this finding. Whatever preconceptions there might be about African-American guests, it’s not necessarily the case that African-American hosts will have different preconceptions. As economists, we were particularly interested in the interaction between the race of the host and the race of the guest, since this yields clues about the factors that drive discrimination. There’s a difference between what is referred to as statistical discrimination (where hosts are trying to use race as a proxy for something else, like wealth) and other types of discrimination, such as in-group bias, where hosts prefer guests of the same race. The policy prescriptions are often different, and so are the implications for where and when we should expect discrimination to surface. Taken in aggregate, our results point toward discrimination that is not simply in-group bias.GAZETTE: The discrimination by hosts was constant across a range of factors, including their race, gender, class, and how often they rented their homes. Even the city where the property was located did not appear to influence the bias against African-Americans. Why is this happening?SVIRSKY: On a practical level, discrimination is occurring due to the design of the Airbnb platform. Airbnb makes it awfully easy for hosts to consider factors that they probably shouldn’t be thinking about. As to why the discrimination is happening, our data doesn’t let us see what goes on in a host’s mind. Certainly one might expect that a city like Los Angeles would be different from Dallas, but in our data that wasn’t the case. The one exception we found is among hosts who have at least one review from an African-American guest. As one would expect, these hosts discriminated less. The ubiquity of discrimination — from LA to Baltimore, from professional hosts to amateur ones — suggests that many types of hosts make inferences based on race, even hosts you might not expect. But the one exception we found suggests that such race-based discrimination is not universal. If, for example, hosts are using race to engage in statistical discrimination, then at least one group of hosts is using a different set of statistics. Seeking fairness in adslast_img read more

Beyond human toll, coronavirus could shake up global politics

first_img“I think a lot of partners and allies are saying, can the US be relied upon to lead on major global challenges — whether it’s a pandemic or whether it’s climate change or nonproliferation?” she said.”It’s going to have effects on other dimensions of our relationship.” China, US joust to lead COVID-19 first emerged late last year in the Chinese metropolis of Wuhan — likely at a market that sold exotic animals for their meat — and Beijing initially tried to suppress the news including by detaining the doctor who sounded the alarm.But China in the past week has sought to turn its COVID-19 response into a sort of soft power, with President Xi Jinping visiting Wuhan to trumpet success at containing the spread.China has sent medical equipment to Italy, the second-worst hit country, and Spain, highlighting its authoritarian model as decisive.It has also used the crisis as leverage against the United States, which has been seeking to combat Beijing’s influence in all areas.An article in the state-run Global Times unsubtly hinted that China could stop exports of face masks and other medical gear if the Trump administration keeps pressing to restrict its tech giant Huawei. China as well as Russia has also promoted unfounded conspiracy theories to discredit the United States. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian suggested on Twitter that the US military may have brought the new coronavirus to Wuhan.The Trump administration, which has offered $100 million in aid worldwide to help other countries deal with the pandemic, has in turn sought to associate China firmly with COVID-19.Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks of the illness as the “Wuhan virus” and Republican Senator Tom Cotton has vowed that the United States will “hold accountable those who inflicted it on the world.” Topics : Revenge of the technocrats? Michael Green, who was the top Asia advisor to former president George W. Bush, doubted that China would ultimately find many buyers for its “arguments about the failures of democracy.”But he added: “That does not mean that the US will win this information battle.” “While the Japanese and others in Asia are not getting the shock treatment that the Europeans got overnight, there is a very strong sense of questioning American leadership right now,” said Green, now a senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.In one example, Green pointed to the stalemate in talks over South Korea’s contributions to US bases, with Trump irritating the ally by insisting on much higher payments.One broader effect, Green said, may be a shifting political narrative. Xi, once seen as untouchable in China, has faced criticism as netizens cheer on doctors — much like Americans across party lines have hailed Anthony Fauci, the 79-year-old veteran head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.Trump’s 2016 upset win, Britain’s vote to leave the European Union and other populist victories had been seen as proof “that the technocrats failed” following the Great Recession of the late 2000s and the Iraq war, Green said.”I think it’s very possible that the macro result this time could be that the political populists failed and it’s the technocrats who emerge as the heroes,” Green said.”We’ll see. But that may be how political history turns in this chapter.”center_img Thousands of people have died, the US response has infuriated European allies, and China has gone on a propaganda offensive. The new coronavirus is shaping up to be a cataclysmic event with far-reaching consequences in global politics.The COVID-19 pandemic, which has infected more than 130,000 people globally, strikes a world already in flux with the rise of nationalists such as US President Donald Trump who have scoffed at the rules of the “globalist” order.”When the dust settles on the COVID-19 world, we won’t be in the same place that we were just a week ago,” said Jon Alterman, a senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “We know that governments will shake as citizens judge them to have fumbled in their response. We know that economies will be disrupted and some economies are likely to collapse,” he said.Trump, who initially dismissed the risks of COVID-19, late Wednesday abruptly imposed a 30-day ban on most travel from mainland Europe and vowed to confront the “foreign virus.”Leaders from the European Union voiced outrage at the move, which triggered chaos at airports, and said that they had not been consulted — which Trump acknowledged. Kelly Magsamen, the vice president for national security and international policy at the left-leaning Center for American Progress, said Trump’s move would only increase questions about Washington’s historic leadership role.last_img read more

Julio Urias takes no-hitter into seventh inning; Dodgers win in 10th

first_img“I had the option of working with a fastball,” Grandal said, “and hoping that when I called the secondary pitch he was going to make a good pitch or at least be around the zone.”Urías still pitched the game of his life. In his brief career he’d never allowed only one hit in a start longer than three innings, or taken a shutout into the seventh. In fact, his 6-1/3 innings is his longest outing in the majors or minors. Only three other pitchers have taken a no-hitter into the seventh inning this season.The Dodgers’ coaches had implored Urías to throw more strikes after the left-hander walked four batters in each of his first two starts. Urías resisted, starting his first five at-bats Tuesday with a pitch out of the strike zone.But he only walked two of the 22 men he faced and struck out five. One batter reached on an error when Urías clasped his glove too quickly on a routine ground ball.“A no-hitter, I think, is just faith,” Grandal said. “If it’s your day for a no-hitter you’re going to do it whether you’re throwing just fastballs or all secondary pitches. I don’t really think about it. Once it starts getting into the eighth or maybe ninth inning, then we’ve got something else.”Said Urías, “I knew it was out of my hands.”By the seventh inning, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts was getting nervous. He decided Urías would throw no more than 110 pitches; he’d never thrown more than 112 in a game. Urías needed 83 pitches to complete six innings.“Mexican Heritage Night, pitch count started creeping up there, I’ve got to take this young kid out of a no-hitter — I think 45,000 fans would’ve really come down on me,” Roberts said.When Andrew McCutchen led off the seventh inning with a ground-rule double against Urias, Roberts had larger concerns. The inning, and the Dodgers’ 2-0 lead, was about to unravel.Left fielder Andrew Toles couldn’t corral McCutchen’s hit and hurt himself crashing into the wall. He would leave the game with an injured right knee. An MRI is scheduled for Wednesday.Sergio Romo relieved Urías and gave up one run, in part the result of a poor defensive play by Kiké Hernandez — Toles’ replacement in left field. Luis Avilan relieved Romo and gave up another run. Suddenly the score was tied, 2-2.In the eighth inning, John Jaso pinch hit for the Pirates and hit a solo home run against Pedro Baez — only the second run Baez has allowed this season.Trailing 3-2 in the ninth inning, Corey Seager and Justin Turner singled for the Dodgers with two outs, putting runners on first and second against Pirates closer Tony Watson. Bellinger smoked a single to right field against the left-hander, tying the score, 3-3. Watson hadn’t blown a save opportunity in eight tries before Tuesday.The 10th inning presented a new challenge. Roberts was operating with a four-man bench. In the afternoon, he told pitcher Ross Stripling to prepare to pinch run, just in case the game went long.That’s how Stripling found himself on first base after Grandal led off the 10th inning with a single against Pittsburgh’s Daniel Hudson. Chris Taylor failed to lay down a bunt and struck out. Hudson struck out Yasiel Puig for the second out.Barnes then pinch hit for Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen (2-0), swung at the first thing he saw, and delivered the unlikeliest hit of them all: a double that split the gap in right-center field and rolled all the way to the wall. Stripling rounded the bases and scored without a slide.For Barnes, a seldom-used backup catcher, it was just his third RBI of the season.“I think you have to be ready to hit right away,” he said. “Giving away strikes, taking at-bats like you would when you’re starting, it’s tough. It’s one AB so be ready to hit.”Grandal hit a two-run home run off Pirates starter Ivan Nova in the fourth inning. It was his fourth home run of the season and his first since April 23.In the seventh inning, Grandal thought he had another home run until Gregory Polanco tracked the ball down in right field, 360 feet from home plate.Grandal finished 3 for 5, his second straight multi-hit game. Ten other Dodgers collected one hit apiece. Urías lost the no-hitter in the top of the seventh inning. The Dodgers very nearly lost the game before an RBI single by Cody Bellinger in the bottom of the ninth tied the score. In the 10th inning, Austin Barnes drove in pitcher Ross Stripling with the winning run in the Dodgers’ 4-3 victory.The universe of unlikely heroes gained a few new stars.Start with Urías. Catcher Yasmani Grandal said the left-hander “literally had no secondary pitches” in his third start of the season for the Dodgers. LOS ANGELES >> Sol De Mexico, an 11-piece mariachi ensemble familiar to generations south of the border, held a concert before the Dodgers played the Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday. Had Julio Urías thrown a no-hitter, he might have insisted la banda warm up the crowd every time he pitches.Urías, 20, believes in superstition enough to skip over the third-base line every time he runs to and from the mound. He always wears his blue socks up to his knees. He stopped short of giving teammates the silent treatment for the first six innings Tuesday when the Pirates couldn’t get a hit.center_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorlast_img read more