AirBNB like Twitter: when the intermediary slips away

AirBNB like Twitter: when the intermediary slips away
To better understand what is happening these days around the figure of Donald Trump, we need to try to reason in a more abstract and broad way than what has become the limiting sphere of social networks. Focusing excessively on this single aspect, screaming at censorship at every single decision, in fact leads to drifts like that of the false censorship of Libero Quotidiano on Twitter, which never really happened, but taken for granted in public opinion by the rags flown by high journalism and political figures. Here, this is the drift to be avoided, instead trying a look at the context to which, in these hours, the AirBNB case invites.

Social networks, private-non-private

When it is Facebook to avoid acting as an intermediary in conveying the "opinions" of Donald Trump, then one can think that Mark Zuckerberg has something personal to claim and therefore pushes for the President to lose a very important megaphone for his own propaganda. When Twitter also slips away, then the feeling is that the whole of Silicon Valley has some retaliation to carry out. But if we also add Twitch, and TikTok and how many others, then it seems that an entire army of digital vocation wants to vote for Trump impeachment. And if it is US politics itself that votes for a real impeachment, then either we think of the world conspiracy against Trump, or every single intervention takes on its own dignity: the dignity of the freedom to choose.

Ci are two aspects on which we are all almost in agreement:

social networks are private entities and as such they must be able to deliberately make choices about their community, their rules and their business; social networks are too large to be able to respond only to private needs, since their role is inevitably social, and therefore political and economic. The difficulty lies in finding a synthesis between these two considerations. So let's come to AirBNB.

What AirBNB has done

AirBNB has communicated how in these hours it is canceling bookings made near Washington, thus responding to the invitations of the authorities who are asking citizens USA not to move to the city on the occasion of the swearing in of the new President. The group promises refunds to all those who have already booked and any further activity is suspended until the all-clear.

AirBNB on the one hand wants to align itself with the needs of local authorities; on the other hand, he wants to avoid the risk of having been cooperative with those groups (militias?) who promise to go to Washington to put further pressure on an unrecognized presidency. Although Trump himself has publicly called for "law & order", the message passed on to certain groups is clearly different and the risk remains: the images of the army sleeping in the corridors of Capitol Hill say a lot about it.

"We continue to work ensuring that members of hate groups are not part of the AirBNB community", explains the group claiming the right to be able to choose its customers and the type of users to offer to its partners (the owners of locals). AirBNB also added that it wants to remove from its community those who have been involved in the riots of recent days: a strong choice, which the devil's advocate could easily veer towards a limiting interpretation of freedom that replaces ordinary justice. The boundary between private and social is so thin and blurred that it inevitably becomes invisible to an ill-trained democracy.

AirBNB is not a social network: it is an intermediary service for the rental of rooms or apartments. The fact that he has slipped away broadens the field from a mere "social network" to a broader concept of "intermediary". And the question becomes: can an intermediary give up his own intermediation, or does he have a social duty to carry out his role by virtue of a social pact made with the community? Can it choose, or does it have the duty to delegate choices?

By extension: should a delivery service be forced to carry food if it refuses to bring food during the hours when unrest is most likely? Or should taxis be required to be on the streets at the times and places where collisions are most likely to occur? The private company must always and in any case fulfill its social role, or has the possibility of abdicating (and if so: when, why, and how?).

Of the social role of 'private entity

The answer should in turn be extended not only in the typology of the cases examined, but also in time. In short: if Facebook were discovered to penalize - for no apparent reason - all the messages of a certain political party, clearly there would be a basic problem that could very well be configured as an attack on democracy; if instead - with clear motivation - it filters the messages of a single exponent, in a surgical way and linked to national security needs, then the picture of the situation changes. So it is for AirBNB and any other intermediary element: when the medium slips away, first of all he pays out of his own pocket, but he does so with a choice that must be motivated and, above all, detailed to events, moments, situations, contexts.
The context: that's what changes. The "con - text" that changes the way in which the "text" can be interpreted. If it is the context that defines the actions of an intermediary, and if it is over time that the actions of individual companies can be judged, then their social role emerges with greater force and it can be politically imposed on them even with greater radicalism. When, on the other hand, we focus on the single choice, everything appears more confused. And it doesn't come out.

Source: AirBNB
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