Do Airbnb policy changes reveal a planned “large scale government action and lockdown” in June?

By May 2, 2024 May 3rd, 2024 Crisis and Disaster, Environment

Users on social media are theorising that a policy update by short and long-term rental platform Airbnb reveals the company’s prior knowledge of an imminent lockdown and “manufactured weather event.” According to the claim, Airbnb has changed their cancellation policies to account for a future weather event which would cause major disruptions and government-enforced lockdowns.Some posters have even claimed that this means something has been planned to take place on or after 6 June – the day the rental policy changes take effect – for a bigger, nefarious purpose.We looked at the policy changes being mentioned to better understand how this claim came about.

The policy update, posted on the Airbnb website and circulated through email to members of the platform, announces changes to the company’s existing Extenuating Circumstances policy. This policy covers cancellations and refunds in the event of unexpected major events, overriding existing cancellation policies for both hosts and guests.

Specifically, key changes include renaming it to the “Major Disruptive Events Policy” and expanding it to make “foreseeable weather events” (such as hurricanes or tornados) eligible for coverage – a change which will be in effect after 6th June.  The existing policy only covers unforeseen or abnormal natural disasters. According to Airbnb, the changes bring the company’s policy in line with “industry standards” and better accommodate the range of global contexts.While the claim posts extrapolate from the update that Airbnb “expects” a weather-based disruptive event, we could find no indication of this from the actual text. While language used in the policy update – specifically terms such as “government travel restrictions” – may have contributed to misinterpretation of the update, the claim also uses the term “lockdown,” which does not appear in Airbnb’s policy at all.

The standard practice of selecting a date on which the changes take effect has also been taken out of context to suggest that it marks the potential start-date of restricted travel and planned weather events.

As its name suggests, the policy exists to account for major and rare occurrences of disruption. Claiming that the terms of the policy indicate that the occurrences it mentions imminent is inaccurate and misleading – and seems to be an intentional bad-faith reading of the text. Therefore, we give this claim a rating of false.

This misleading claim is predicated on the pre-existing conspiracy that certain natural disasters are planned or manufactured by Governments or other malicious entities and organisations. We have seen this in relation to other weather disasters – such as the Hawaii wildfires and earthquakes in Turkey. This existing belief fuels new claims such as this one and allows them to spread despite lacking actual evidence or substance.

It is therefore important to be aware of how source material for claims is be framed – and to read the original news or updates before taking reports about them at face value.

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