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Oct 9, 2013

New York: the next steps

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Earlier this week, I wrote about the New York State Attorney General’s demand that Airbnb turn over three years’ worth of data on thousands of hosts in New York City. I wanted to provide a little more context on this issue and update you on our progress.

Several weeks ago, we met with the New York Attorney General’s office. The media has reported that the Attorney General is seeking to target a small number of illegal hotels that abuse the Airbnb platform. We share the goal of fighting illegal hotel operators and slumlords who have never been part of our vision and have no place on Airbnb. And we want to do more to help make New York and the Airbnb community even stronger. That includes working with the city and state to collect taxes, weed out bad actors proactively, and help handle complaints from neighbors with a dedicated hotline.

But the subpoena issued by the Attorney General last Friday goes well beyond bad actors and demands information about thousands of regular Airbnb hosts in New York. So, we made it clear to the Attorney General’s office from the very beginning that we would never agree to this type of government-sponsored fishing expedition.

As we said on Monday, we believe this subpoena as written is unreasonably broad, and we remain committed to fighting it with everything we’ve got.

The next step in that process was taken this afternoon, when we filed a motion in the New York State Supreme Court objecting to the broad sweep of the Attorney General’s demands. The Attorney General required us to provide data or respond in court today, and we are committed to standing up for our community. This may be a tough fight, but it is one worth fighting.

It will take time for a judge to rule on our motion, and during that time we hope we can continue to work with the Attorney General’s office to make New York and the Airbnb community stronger.

Airbnb started in 2008. Back then, everyone said it was a crazy idea, but our founders had a vision of what it could be: regular people opening their homes, sharing their spaces, connecting with people from around the world and earning a little extra money at the same time.

While our community was growing, New York City was grappling with a real problem: illegal hotels. Blocks of apartments and even entire buildings were being bought up, taken off the housing market and used as unlicensed hotels. Even worse, scores of New Yorkers were being evicted from the places they had called home for decades so unscrupulous slumlords could make a quick buck. It was wrong. And it was the exact opposite of everything we stand for.

As you know, New York passed a law to crack down on that problem. The intent of the law was noble and we have not argued for its complete repeal—far from it. But we’ve long been concerned that it could be used to unfairly punish members of the Airbnb community who simply want to share the home in which they live. That’s why we have a dedicated team working in New York City and Albany to try and change the part of this law that is too broad and goes after regular people trying to make ends meet.

We remain hopeful that we can continue our conversations with the Attorney General about weeding out bad actors and helping the State collect taxes where applicable. In the meantime, we will continue to work hard to educate governments around the world about the sharing economy and the incredible benefits it continues to provide every day. We know that someday, demands like this and the bad laws that make them possible will cease to exist.

We will continue to keep you informed on this matter as the situation develops. And we will continue to fight for you.

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