A fake profile with 208 flats: the business behind being 'authentic' in Amsterdam (NRC, 9 Nov 2018)

  • A fake profile with 208 apartments: the business behind being 'authentic'

  • Original headline in Dutch: Nepprofiel met 208 appartementen: de business achter de 'authentieke'

  • Published in NRC on 9 November 2018

  • Summary:

    • NRC estimated that around 20% of Amsterdam rentals listed on Airbnb were managed by intermediary companies.

    • These use fake Airbnb user profiles to list hundreds of tourist rentals as if they were 'authentic' local travel experiences in line with Airbnb's original narrative.

    • Under one of such fake profiles (fake picture, fake bio, the person doesn't exist), these companies may advertise as many as 208 different apartments.

    • Some of these fake profiles give positive reviews to each other, which helps their listing appear earlier in searches.

    • Using fake profiles goes against the terms of use of Airbnb, and it contradicts Airbnb's stated philosophy.

  • Keywords: Amsterdam, the Netherlands, Airbnb, fake users 60Days, Bnbmanager, AwayKey, IamB&B, L'Easeaway

This story is also useful because it illustrates very well the effects of the platform economy brought about by Airbnb: "When Van der Putt [co-owner of Bnbmanager] is asked to what extent the fake profiles are in line with Airbnb's philosophy, he says: “Airbnb is a multinational. Do you believe all the stories that multinationals send out to the world? Airbnb offers companies space to do business on the platform.” [Translated from Dutch into English with Google Translate]

It summarises Amsterdam municipality's efforts to regulate short-term rental platforms: "From 2015, the city council introduced rules. Individuals may rent out their home for a maximum of 60 nights a year, to no more than four people at a time. Since last year there is also a reporting obligation. Enforcement has become more professional and stricter, with fines of more than 20,000 euros for those who break the law. Next year [2019] the rules of the municipality will become even stricter : in that case a house can only be rented out for 30 days a year." [Translated from Dutch into English with Google Translate]

It mentions strategies by intermediary companies to evade such regulations: "For example, by offering properties as 'bed and breakfast', which may be rented throughout the year. And by offering the same apartment through multiple, just as different advertisements - and thus bypassing the 60-day limit." [Translated from Dutch into English with Google Translate]

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