Early Monday, Airbnb launched a petition drive among its hosts and users to stop New York state’s legal offensive against the company. Hoping to hit 20,000 signatures by October 20, one Airbnb host going by the name Mishelle has pledged to hand-deliver the petition to the New York Senate to stop the state Attorney General’s office from accessing the private user data of over 15,000 New York City Airbnb hosts.
It appears that the petition drive is a top-to-bottom all-hands-on-deck operation. Company functionaries from local community managers all the way to the company’s head of community engagement are rallying site users into signing the petition:
The Attorney General’s Office has not responded to Runnin’ Scared’s requests for comment. We will update when when it does.
Valleywag’s Sam Biddle goes in on Airbnb, calling it an astroturf campaign that obfuscates Airbnb’s corporate interests with high-minded community-building rhetoric and phony indignation at falling under laws meant to crack down on slumlords. He writes:
What kind of monster wouldn’t want to save communal sharing? Except it’s not really sharing, because you pay for it, and it’s not really communal, because it’s hugely lucrative for Airbnb …
Airbnb has had a rough go of it lately. New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman issued a demand that all of the site’s 15,000 New York City apartment hosts hand over user data going back three years in an investigation of the site’s legality in the state. This comes even after an Airbnb user won an appeal against a $2,400 fine levied against him for housing two Russian tourists in his apartment.
Airbnb’s lawyers have been to court to fight the order, saying that the A.G.’s dragnet invades the privacy of Airbnb users. Given the current political climate in which any potential for government seizure of personal data is likely to stir mass hysteria, New York state is losing the PR game, and it appears Airbnb is going to the mat with this one–at press time the petition has reached nearly 13,000 signatures.