NY Legislature Rushes Anti-Airbnb Legislation; Likely In Violation Of Federal Law
from the states-still-learning-230 dept
A few weeks ago, we wrote about how legislators in various cities (mainly SF, Chicago and LA) were trying to push through anti-Airbnb legislation that would require homeowners doing short term rentals to register with the city — and which would hold the platform (Airbnb) liable if its users failed to do so. As we noted, that almost certainly violates Section 230 of the CDA, which bars any law that attempts to hold a platform liable for the actions of its users. At least in San Francisco, the Board of Supervisors ignored all of this with a city attorney claiming (incorrectly) that since it regulates “business activities of platforms,” it’s not regulating the content on those platforms. That’s an… interesting dodge on the Section 230 issues. It seems unlikely to hold up in court, but California’s been especially wacky on CDA 230 lately. The SF legislation has since passed, and it will be interesting to see if anyone (i.e., Airbnb) decides to challenge it in court.
Meanwhile, over in NY state, it seems that they’re bringing out an even bigger and more clueless anti-Airbnb sledgehammer. It’s a proposed bill that would bar Airbnb using homeowners from “advertising” short term rentals of their properties. They put it in SCREAMY LETTERS mixed with legalese:
PROHIBITING ADVERTISING THAT PROMOTES THE USE OF DWELLING UNITS IN A CLASS A MULTIPLE DWELLING FOR OTHER THAN PERMANENT RESIDENCE PURPOSES. IT SHALL BE UNLAWFUL TO ADVERTISE OCCUPANCY OR USE OF DWELLING UNITS IN A CLASS A MULTIPLE DWELLING FOR OCCUPANCY THAT WOULD VIOLATE SUBDIVISION EIGHT OF SECTION FOUR OF THIS CHAPTER DEFINING A “CLASS A” MULTIPLE DWELLING AS A MULTIPLE DWELLING THAT IS OCCUPIED FOR PERMANENT RESIDENCE PURPOSES.
Basically: you can’t use Airbnb to rent out your home for a short period of time and make some extra money because NY legislators don’t want to upset the hotel business. Violating the law for Airbnb users can lead to increasing fines ($1,000 for first offense, $5,000 for a second and $7,000 for each additional violation). While a quick reading of the bill appears to focus on the homeowners, it can also be read to apply to Airbnb itself. Because the definition of “advertise” includes any “WEBSITES” that are “INTENDED OR USED TO INDUCE, ENCOURAGE OR PERSUADE THE PUBLIC TO ENTER INTO A CONTRACT FOR GOODS AND/OR SERVICES.” (Sorry for the screamies, which are in the original).
Apparently, NY legislators are rushing this bill through. The fact that it can go after Airbnb almost certainly violates Section 230 yet again, but a bigger deal is just how ridiculous this is for anyone in NY who wants to make use of Airbnb. Airbnb is a very useful platform for both homeowners and travelers. It’s helpful for the tourism industry and creates a bunch of benefits. It’s not perfect, but this kind of bill would effectively kill off a lot of the usefulness of Airbnb. And for what? The message the NY legislature would be sending is “innovation is not welcome in NY.” As Julie Samuels wrote in the NY Daily News:
But rather than making it easier to bring this home-sharing consensus to New York and preserve the innovative possibilities in the sharing economy, the legislation in Albany threatens to foreclose productive conversations about a comprehensive regulatory environment for startups like Airbnb. Episodes like these ? where New York?s leaders risk signaling that they are not interested in listening to what tech companies have to say ? are precisely the kind of stories that loom large in the minds of entrepreneurs and hurt job growth.
What?s worse is that this bill does nothing to address legitimate concerns about home-sharing, or to support tech companies? efforts to crack down on illegal hotel operators who seek to remove housing from the market. Instead, it sets a bullseye on thousands of middle-class New Yorkers by imposing fines of up to $7,500 for advertising their homes on networks such as Airbnb?s.
It’s amazing how often politicians seem to want to attack, rather than nurture innovation that’s helping their constituents.