Discover more from Random Minds by Katherine Brodsky
What if big tech hated people you knew?
Recently I’ve come across a Twitter post from what might be considered by some to be a ‘controversial’ media personality, Lauren Southern. But this isn’t really about her. Turns out her parents recently got banned by Airbnb merely for being “closely associated” with her.
I’ve been hearing many stories about people getting banned from various platforms ranging from PayPal, to Patron and IndieGoGo for their views and free expression—although usually without any notice or explanation, but I’ve never come across a case prior to this where someone was removed from a platform merely for being related to someone else. I can’t help but find this to be a rather disturbing precedent.
Although I do not generally believe that someone should be removed from a service such as airbnb for having opinions that run counter to particular orthodoxy—even if I find them offensive myself—so long as they don’t violate the terms of agreement when it comes to being a good guest at someone’s home, one could make the case that a private company has the right to refuse service to a customer they do not approve of. A strong argument can also be made that someone may not want to open their home to certain people whose views and political actions they might find abhorrent. I agree with that, though I’d rather give the power over to the Airbnb hosts to choose for themselves who they want or do not want to accommodate rather than the company—although Airbnb may argue that the vetting process is part of their service. Still, in my view, even then Airbnb is better off flagging certain accounts rather than outright banning them and letting their customers ultimately make the choice.
An Airbnb representative told Fox News producer Gregg Re that Southern was removed in 2019 per their policies that prohibit people affiliated with hate groups.
Look, I don’t know if Southern is indeed affiliated with hate groups or not, but let’s accept for a moment that she is. Let’s even accept that Airbnb is correct in removing her from their platform. The problem here is that now we’ve veered into this whole “guilt by association” territory. What if Southern’s parents don’t even approve of her views or share them? As any parent knows, try as they my, they can’t control what their grown kids do or say, let alone what they believe. They might as well and try controlling the weather.
Apparently, since the incident has happened and garnered major media attention, Airbnb had reversed their decision.
They didn’t get away with it this time. Or did they?
The reality is that Southern has a huge media platform and could appear on major networks to speak about her experience. Her incident was a trending topic on Twitter. But it makes one wonder how often such things do happen to people with less power and much smaller audiences and we never even hear about it? Has this really been the first incident?
How many degrees of separation makes one guilty or complicit? Are siblings safe? Grandparents? Second cousins? I guess with friends, at least you choose them. Still, I vehemently disagree with many of the views of some of my friends and colleagues. Am I not allowed to “associate” with anyone I disagree with? Does it mean that I now rist losing access to Airbnb? Or perhaps next time I’ll be stranded late at night without an Uber? In fact, I might not even know which opinion or friend I need to disavow in order to ensure that my PayPal keeps working. Is this really the future we want to live in?
As tech companies continue to ban more people over their free expression, I hope to share more in-depth posts looking into this phenomenon and what it means for our society, so stay tuned, and please leave your thoughts in comments below.
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Who am I? I’m a writer with an overactive imagination and a random mind. Outside of Substack, you’ll find my work in publications such as Newsweek, WIRED, Variety, The Washington Post, The Guardian, Esquire, Playboy, Mashable, CNN Travel, The Independent, and many others.