Kaylen Ward's Twitter fundraiser for the Australian bushfire relief has ended. The Los Angeles-based model said she raised $1 million (by comparison Jeff Bezos donated $690,000). At the start of Ms. Ward's successful donation drive she had three Instagram accounts — none of which were part of the campaign.
Despite that, Instagram kicked her off all three accounts, saying her behavior on Twitter violated Instagram's sexually suggestive content guidelines. On Twitter, Ms. Ward -- as The Naked Philanthropist -- offered a privately-sent nude photo to those who provided verifiable proof of donation to organizations including Australian Red Cross and The Koala Hospital. Her fundraiser complied with Twitter's Terms of Service.
If the thought of companies stalking you online and denying you services because they think you're a sinner gives you the Orwell Anti-Sex League chills, you should know that Airbnb just asked Instagram to hold its beer.
The same day Ms. Ward launched her fundraising campaign, reports emerged detailing Airbnb's new "trait analyzer" algorithms that compile data dossiers on users, decides whether you've been bad or good, gives you a score, and then "flag and investigate suspicious activity before it happens."
The Evening Standard reported on Airbnb's patent for AI that crawls and scrapes everything it can find on you, "including social media for traits such as 'conscientiousness and openness' against the usual credit and identity checks and what it describes as 'secure third-party databases'."
They added, "Traits such as "neuroticism and involvement in crimes" and "narcissism, Machiavellianism, or psychopathy" are "perceived as untrustworthy." Further:
It uses artificial intelligence to mark down those found to be "associated" with fake social network profiles, or those who have given any false details. The patent also suggests users are scored poorly if keywords, images or video associated with them are involved with drugs or alcohol, hate websites or organisations, or sex work.
It adds that people "involved in pornography" or who have "authored online content with negative language" will be marked down.
When reached for comment, Airbnb provided Engadget two different responses from two different people. The first was boilerplate, describing its "trait analyzer" patent that Airbnb sent to press: the company claimed it did not "necessarily implement" all or part of its patent filings.
Engadget also asked Airbnb for comment regarding its profiling users based on their offsite behaviors and its denial of services to customers who work in legal adult entertainment.
Airbnb's second response (via email) was to ask to speak off the record (on the phone). Engadget declined off-the-record comment. This Airbnb spokesperson emailed again, stating:
Regarding your question on sex work, we do not allow sex work in Airbnb listings and have policies in place to enforce this rule... We take action to remove accounts that we believe to be associated with sex trafficking and child exploitation regardless of whether the activty [SIC] is occuring [SIC] in Airbnb listings, and we also work cooperatively with law enforcement authorities in such cases.
Yeah, that wasn't our question on sex work. But the statement is revealing in that it looks like Airbnb is bending over backwards to not say it's indiscriminately discriminating against sex workers -- while it's becoming widely documented that Airbnb does exactly that.
"Airbnb for everyone" (not)
Adult performer Cadence Lux's Airbnb account was suddenly terminated this month. Last week she went to create a new account under her legal, non-performer name, yet Airbnb knew it was her. The company denied her an account, saying Lux's " information is associated with activities that pose a risk to the Airbnb community."
Guilt by association, certainly. But it's also the direct opposite of what Airbnb told local press when bragging about its profiling and surveillance tools this week.
It's no wonder The Observer recently reported that Sex Workers Are at the Forefront of the Fight Against Mass Surveillance and Big Tech. "Algorithms are affecting people, and disproportionately they're going to affect people at the margins," Analyst and researcher Bardot Smith said. "So queer people, people of color, sex working people. Obviously, the intersections of all these identities, and basically it comes down to people that they have determined don't deserve access to money and resources."
Needless to say, Lux was not using Airbnb for anything other than having a safe place to sleep. It's almost like everyone forgets porn is a legal job in the United States. Okay Airbnb, we get it! You like to refuse service to adult women who engage in consensual activities of bodily autonomy that have nothing to do with your service because you don't approve, or you don't believe women, or whatever. But hey, I digress.
They don't need to. According to Bloomberg, Silicon Valley startup Trooly began working with Airbnb in 2015; in 2017 Airbnb purchased Trooly's intellectual property and engineering team. Airbnb's email to Engadget confirmed that its problematic patent making headlines this month was part of the Trooly acquisition.
At the time, Trooly had two serious competitors in the AI-powered, big data "background check" space: UK startup Onfido and US-based Checkr.