Airbnb is facing scrutiny as guests are accusing the company of removing negative reviews and boosting subpar hosts and their properties.
Donna Oakley, an Airbnb guest who stayed at a two-bedroom condominium in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, told Quartz that the home she arrived in looked completely inferior to the photos of the five-star property she booked. According to Oakley, the rooms were dirty, the kitchen cabinets had mold, and the vents were clogged with dust and dirt. Oakley also encountered difficulties with parking, when a neighbor parked in the Airbnb property’s designated spot, then threatened Oakley when she asked the neighbor to move the car.
“We felt it was necessary to move our car somewhere else … and this was not a safe environment due to the threat of violence,” Oakley wrote in a review of the property on the Airbnb website. “The condo is in need of a significant cleaning. It appears to have been neglected.”
Airbnb’s review policy gives hosts and guests 14 days to write a review of the experience after the guest has checked out, and reviews will only show up under the property when both parties have completed a review, or once the 14-day period is over — whichever happens first. While Oakley’s entire review was two paragraphs, Airbnb cut most of it and left her review with just one sentence: “Please be aware that this property is unclean and the neighbors are rude and threatened violence in reference to a parking space (which is extremely limited).”
In addition to Oakley, four other Airbnb users told Quartz similar stories about Airbnb allegedly deleting or editing their reviews without permission. Airbnb, however, is standing firm that its content policy makes it clear when and why a review might be removed. Nick Papas, a spokesperson for the company, said in an emailed statement, “The goal of this policy is to ensure that any fraudulent or misleading content is not allowed on the site. Just as critical, this policy also exists to protect the integrity of authentic feedback from our community.”
Airbnb is far from the only company to encounter difficulties with online reviews. The New York Times reports travel website TripAdvisor continuously deleted reviews by a woman who wrote that she was raped by a security guard at a resort in Mexico; the company later apologized.