Early last week, the descriptions of Airbnb listings in Ukraine pleaded for help. One was titled, “An apartment to collect funds for Ukrainian people.” Now, the original link to the listing is forbidden.
Over the past few weeks, Airbnb users have led a grassroots movement to book stays in the country without actually going there as a way to donate to people in Ukraine. As of Friday, about 434,000 nights were booked in the country, raising $15 million for hosts. Airbnb chipped in, too, by temporarily waiving guest and host fees on bookings in the country.
But since that effort started, some people questioned the legitimacy of the listings and whether the money sent through Airbnb bookings was actually going to those who needed it. The company has since suspended "a handful" of hosts' accounts "who did not support this effort in the spirit intended," a spokesperson told Protocol. Airbnb refunded guests who booked through a now-suspended account.
"We have systems in place to help ensure the integrity of activity on the platform, and we continue to actively review booking and listing activity in Ukraine," the spokesperson said. The $15 million raised through Airbnb bookings in Ukraine does not include the hosts whose accounts have been suspended, the spokesperson added.
Airbnb asks for people’s names, date of birth or government ID to verify a host. Under the company’s terms of service, Airbnb requires that listings contain “complete and accurate information” about hosts’ service, price and other charges. It also requires that listing information, like photos and calendar availability, are accurate.
One Airbnb user who supported this effort booked a night at a loft in Kyiv that was later canceled. Afterward, the guest received a refund on the stay and an email saying the reservation was canceled because it was booked with a listing "that is no longer able to receive payments," according to screenshots of the email that were obtained by Protocol.
Separately, Airbnb.org is aiming to provide 100,000 people leaving Ukraine with free temporary housing. Nearly 30,000 hosts have signed up to support the effort through Airbnb's nonprofit arm so far, and others who could not offer their homes opted to donate.