By Dave Sebastian

 

Airbnb units won't be hosting new visitors in Washington next week, when President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will take office Jan. 20, as the home-sharing company braces for potential violence in the U.S. Capitol by armed militias and hate groups.

Airbnb Inc. said it is blocking and canceling all reservations in the Washington, D.C., metro area during the period, in response to local and federal officials' calls against traveling to the city for Inauguration Day. The action comes as federal officials and inauguration organizers are boosting security in response to growing concerns after last week's attack on the Capitol by a mob of supporters of President Trump.

The San Francisco company said it will refund guest reservations and reimburse hosts at Airbnb's expense, as well as cancel reservations on HotelTonight, the company's hotel-booking service. Long-term reservations that have already been booked are excluded from the move, an Airbnb spokesman said.

Airbnb said it has banned from its platform individuals who are confirmed to have been involved in the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol or those associated with known hate groups. Federal prosecutors said they were examining more than 160 cases and weighing sedition charges in some of them as the nation's military leadership this week denounced the attack as a plot to overthrow the government.

"We are continuing our work to ensure hate group members are not part of the Airbnb community," the company said.

The move marks the latest action by a company in denouncing the violence that transpired as lawmakers last week certified Mr. Biden's victory. In the wake of the riot, companies have also moved to cut ties with Mr. Trump and his supporters and fired workers who participated.

Founded in 2008, the company found an opportunity in setting up an accommodations site -- at the intersection of couch surfing and hotels -- during large events such as the South By Southwest music conference in Austin, Texas, and eventually the Democratic National Convention and former President Barack Obama's inauguration.

 

Write to Dave Sebastian at dave.sebastian@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 13, 2021 11:37 ET (16:37 GMT)

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