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Airbnb's new 'anti-party technology' to impact Pittsburghers

Airbnb launches 'anti-party technology'
Airbnb launches 'anti-party technology' 03:19

Pittsburgh (KDKA) — Airbnb hosts in Pittsburgh have mixed thoughts about the short-term rental company's new screening system, which was designed to identify high-risk reservations and prevent unauthorized parties.

"It's kind of unfair and uncertain," said Stephen Long, a local developer and Airbnb host.

Long used to lease the first floor of a building in the East Allegheny neighborhood in Pittsburgh's North Side, until there was a deadly shooting at a party in the unit above his on Easter Sunday. 

Two teenagers, Jaiden Brown and Mathew Steffy-Ross, were killed and several other teens were injured. Long found bullet holes in his unit's bedrooms the next day. The Airbnb renters staying in the unit left during the party.

Contracting crews were putting up new windows and making repairs to the Airbnb unit on Wednesday, the day Airbnb announced its new "anti-party technology."

Long said he always carefully screens his possible tenants and isn't sure how to feel about the new screening system.

"I feel like it could be unfair to the people looking to actually rent the properties. But then again, there is going to be a lot of filters. And if Airbnb is going to stop the actual booking before you get a chance to look at it and screen it yourself, you could be potentially missing out on business," Long said.

The company said the technology will review the potential renter's history on Airbnb, the length of the trip, how far they live from the listing and whether they're renting for a weekend or weekday, among other factors.

Pittsburgh City Councilman Bobby Wilson believes this is a step in the right direction. 

"It makes sense that a large tech company would take this step to use an algorithm to reduce parties or at least identify where a party may take place. So, I applaud them for moving in this direction," Wilson said.

Meanwhile, Wilson and other council members are hoping new legislation to regulate short-term rentals in the city will be approved by the end of the year.

"I still think there are further steps we can take, like local government, to not only recognize where the properties are but also strengthen that connection between the proper public safety," Wilson said.

Police are still looking for the person or persons responsible for the mass shooting at the East Allegheny Airbnb.

Wilson and Long hope Airbnb's new screening system will help prevent any more tragedies.

"At the end of the day, a lot of people were hurt, there were lives lost, and you can never get those lives back. I know people want answers, and Airbnb making stricter guidelines will help in the long run," Long said.

Airbnb said the "anti-party technology" is designed to prevent a high-risk reservation attempt from going through to the host. Guests who are blocked from booking an entire home booking due to this system will be able to book a private room or a hotel room through Airbnb. 

Airbnb's new screening system will now be used in the U.S. and Canada. The company said it's been tested since last October in parts of Australia, which lead to saw a 35% drop in unauthorized parties.

The short-term rental company permanently banned parties back in June.

KDKA-TV reached out to an Airbnb spokesperson for comment. The spokesperson said they are always working on new systems to improve their defenses against bad actors.

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