Its an eerie world where tech giants can simply ban the plebeians into a digital exile

Today morning, I came across this medium post from Jackson Cunningham in which he describes how AirBnB simply banned him for life from their website without a due process. Jackson’s mistake: He and his girlfriend rented an apartment with a rude host who came in barging in an hour before the checkout time and started forcing them out, and Jackson later wrote a review about it on Google (the AirBnB’s own website didn’t accept a negative review about a host as its their usual practice):

google review of jackson cunningham

And Jackson isn’t alone who has faced the wrath of this tech giant. As the top comments on this reddit post corroborate, many others who tried to rent through AirBnB have faced a similar consequence:

The broader philosophical question is how easy it has become for the large tech giants of the world to simply place a plebeian or commoner into a digital exile by one flip of a switch today. The problem isn’t that a company like AirBnB is able to ban a user, the problem is that people have allowed AirBnB to become a kind of digital monopoly that is able to ruin one’s earnings, employment and service availing for life by simply banning them. Its the people who have given them this power, or in other words, the plebeians have brought this upon themselves.

And as much as one would try to rationalize this as a natural result of capitalism, it isn’t. This goes totally against the principle of Laissez-faire (French for let-go or free trade) which forms the very basis of capitalism. So, even from the perspective of capitalism, banning a market agent without a due process in this way and putting them out of business goes totally against the spirit of free trade and capitalism. In fact, this is more resembling of and a digital equivalent of the Gladiator-era fascism where a Roman dictator can ban or exile any plebeian of the state at their whims.

Roman Dictator

Roman Dictator (Image Source: Medium.com)

And how did the Romans solved their dictator problem? That’s right, they brought in democracy and civic structure, they decentralized their political system so that its divided into multiple ministries and provincial bodies now, so that one dictator shouldn’t be able to affect everything at his whims.

The same thing needs to happen in the digital world today, I’d like to see a world where there are tons of alternatives to AirBnB, Amazon, Ebay, Microsoft, Uber, etc., a world where consumers don’t give all the power to a few entities, and thus screw themselves in the process. The consumers should have many alternatives, so that if one service bans them, there are a ton of others, and in order for this to happen, the open source programmers also have a large role to play.

Even a consumer should not source everything from one service by succumbing to convenience, but cultivate a habit of giving new players a chance. Why use only Amazon for shopping, also try Ebay, Flipkart, Snapdeal, AliExpress, etc. once in a while. Why use only Uber for cabbing, also try Ola, Lyft, Hailo, Meru, etc. once in a while. Remember plebeians, you are yourself responsible for the digital world you create, and each one of us is partly responsible in some way or other for Jackson’s situation.

3 comments

  1. The larger problem is that AirBnB alternatives cannot get their foot in the door because that takes way too much money these days.

    • Prahlad Yeri says:

      All it takes is development of a new website and some marketing. More importantly, more and more flat owners and tourists looking for flats should be ready to use this new platform and not just stick to AirBnB.

    • Marvin says:

      Not true. AirBnB/Uber loosened the legal hurdles in many cities and countries. Should now be much easier to make a niche website targeting specific groups of clients and get a strong foothold. For example, a friend built a rental website specifically aimed at college students in a specific city, and they had a huge positive response (even with AirBnb as a local option). So the solution may be targeting “niche tribes” and offering them a tailored service that these Goliath’s who try to go after all clients (at the expensive of quality of service) cannot maintain because they lack focus and experience in those industries.

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