Fake Airbnb stays to help Ukraine. What could go wrong?

Good morning! People are using Airbnb creatively to provide support to Ukrainians in need. And the company has been building its infrastructure to facilitate this for years. I’m Sarah Roach and I blogged about dogs in fourth grade. It is still in place because I can no longer log in to delete it!

Beware of scammers

Tech companies are responding to the war in Ukraine with a few common strategies: cut off Russia, donate to charities, or dismantle Russian state media. Airbnb did what it could at the corporate level to take action. Then it let its hosts and other users take the lead.

Airbnb noted he would offer free accommodation up to 100,000 people fleeing Ukraine.

  • This isn’t the first time Airbnb has offered free accommodations. Last summer, the company also provided free temporary housing to Afghan refugees as tens of thousands fled Kabul.
  • Airbnb is already getting a ton of support for Ukraine. On Sunday, CEO Brian Chesky said more than 11,000 hosts sign to offer their homes to Ukrainians in need.
  • Airbnb is also taking donations to support hosts who cannot provide free accommodation. Mila Kunis, who is Ukrainian, and her husband, Ashton Kutcher, want to raise $30 million for Flexport.org and Airbnb. That money will help pay for those stays, Chesky said.

But Airbnb is also used to channel donations directly to people, rather than acting as a liaison between charities and the country.

  • People book Airbnb stays and experiences in Ukraine that they don’t intend on use.
  • Almost 61,500 nights have been booked in Ukraine, donating $1.9 million to hosts in the country, Chesky tweeted.
  • The platform is also temporarily waiving guest and host fees on in-country bookings. Without it, Reservations wouldn’t make much sense as a charitable movement, as Airbnb takes around 17% of a typical transaction.

Airbnb slowly built the infrastructure to enable this kind of philanthropy.

  • In 2012, the company wanted to waive its reservation fees in areas affected by Hurricane Sandy. But Airbnb’s website hadn’t been programmed to allow people to rent rooms for free.
  • An engineer rewired the site, and within hours people were able to reserve seats for free.
  • Since then, Airbnb has waived fees for people fleeing wildfires in California and Greece, hurricanes from Texas to North Carolina and the fall of the Afghan government.

There are many ways this kind of grassroots effort could go wrong. Since people started booking rooms in Ukraine, some have started to Twitter to warn potential scammers.

  • The company has processes in place to verify hosts. Airbnb requires people’s name, date of birth, or government-issued ID for certification.
  • Yet getting thousands of people to book stays through Airbnb that they don’t intend to use means the guest will never meet their host and, therefore, will never know if that person is real or no.
  • “If I was a Russian scammer, I would set up fake Airbnbs in [Kyiv] and Odessa as quickly as possible to take advantage of these noble intentions”, a person tweeted.
  • Airbnb did not return Protocol’s request for comment on the company’s steps to ensure hosts in Ukraine are verified, outside of its usual protocol.

Airbnb has set up a platform that allows people to help those in need. But it’s easy to take advantage of people’s generosity, especially when you don’t even know the person you’re giving to. Hosts who say they live in Ukraine post tons of ads titled “Kiev needs you” and “Book and help Ukraine.” But before pouring money, make sure the host has been there for a while. And read the list additional carefully.

—Sarah Roach (E-mail | Twitter)

A MESSAGE FROM 4-H

Gen Z is ready to help everyone – from the small rural business to the tech giant – rethink how their business operations can help bridge the digital divide. It’s time to give Gen Z a seat at the table for the generation that sees how technology can be an advantage but is often a barrier to advancement.

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People are talking

Clarence Thomas again wants to talk about article 230:

  • “We should … address the appropriate scope of immunity under Section 230 in an appropriate case.”

Google is working on reduce food wasteSundar Pichai said:

  • “We are committed to halving Google’s food waste and sending zero food waste to landfill by 2025.”

make moves

Google acquires Mandiant, a cybersecurity firm, for $5.4 billion. The company will join Google Cloud.

Binance introduced Bifinity, a payment technology platform that can facilitate fiat-to-crypto transactions.

Mobileye wants to go public. It’s part of Intel’s bigger push to focus on autonomous vehicles.

Amazon bought Veeqo, which helps online businesses sell products on and off Amazon, for an undisclosed amount.

Brice Hill joined Applied Materials as SVP and CFO. Hill was most recently CFO of Xilinx.

George Slover joined CDT as General Counsel and Senior Competition Policy Counsel. Slover was most recently a senior policy adviser at Consumer Reports.

In other news

Instagram’s Boomerang and Hyperlapse have left app stores, just a week after the IGTV platform shut down.

Silicon Valley is not dead yet. A new survey has found that the San Francisco and San Jose areas have actually increased their share of tech jobs during the pandemic, contrary to what all Miami movers and digital nomads would have you believe.

Uber, Lyft and DoorDash are working together against unionization. The companies plan to run ads in Washington promoting flexible labor for contractors, the Wall Street Journal reported, hoping to convince lawmakers not to classify workers as employees.

WeWork closes in Russia. Last week, CEO Sandeep Mathrani said he didn’t think the company would leave the country, but now it’s closing offices and divesting operations.

Biden wants city and school buses to go electric. The administration announced billions of dollars in funding, some of which will go to transit agencies and states looking to transition to electric fleets.

Google lends its offices. The company enables organizations that provide legal and psychological support to people leaving Ukraine to use its startup campus in Warsaw.

Coinbase has blocked over 25,000 crypto wallets linked to Russian users who the company believes are engaging in illicit activities. And FinCEN has warned the Russian government and others not to use crypto to avoid sanctions.

Ubisoft and Take-Two halt game sales in Russia, following similar moves by Activision Blizzard, EA Games and others.

The Amazonization of Whole Foods

The humble grocery store may soon be a thing of the past.

The new Whole Foods site in Washington, DC, shows off its technical side: it’s run by tracking and robotic tools like Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology. Cameras, not employees, follow you as you shop. When you walk out of the store, Amazon emails you a receipt, which tells you how long you’ve been shopping for and how much you owe. If that sounds familiar, that’s because much of this technology is already in use in Amazon Go convenience stores, but this is one of the first times it’ll be used in a 21,000 square foot store. .

A MESSAGE FROM 4-H

People often think that the digital divide is only about broadband access, but it’s also about understanding the needs and levels of technological literacy across roughly six generations. Gen Z could help companies develop products and apps that better meet the needs of our communities, our country, and our world.

Learn more

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