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A Russian Website Wants To Take All The Anti-Gay Travellers Airbnb Doesn't

"It's unlikely you want to cradle your baby in a bed that gays were frolicking in before."

Originally posted on
Updated on

MyLinker.ru, a Russian site for short-term lodging similar to Airbnb, recently began marketing itself to a specific clientele: anti-LGBT travelers and hosts.

As Global Voices pointed out, MyLinker is billing itself as a safe haven for hosts removed from Airbnb after that company's antidiscrimination policy prohibited its users from turning guests away on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Yuya Shino / Reuters

MyLinker says hosts banned from Airbnb due to the policy in November have signed up for its service: "These owners came to us :-)" A MyLinker representative told BuzzFeed News it has about 300,000 users, including renters and hosts, and that about 864 hosts in Russia have joined its site since Airbnb's anti-discrimination policy came into force. The company says it didn't reach out to hosts removed from Airbnb, but that logically those who disagreed with the policy would seek out other booking sites.

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The site warns that renting rooms through Western services like Airbnb, Tripping, and HomeAway — which the company spelled "Homoway" — involves a "big risk": "It's unlikely you want to cradle your baby in a bed that gays were frolicking in before."

"We believe that the Western model of doing business on the short-term rental market, for example Airbnb, is not suitable for Russia because of the differences in mentality," MyLinker project leader Svetlana Novikova said in a post on the company's website. "For this reason, we decided to do everything so that hosts and guests have all the necessary information about each other that will allow them to make the decision: to rent to a particular guest or not, to stay with a host or not."

In addition to embracing anti-LGBT hosts banned from Airbnb, MyLinker created this "gay locator" to identify Russian cities with high levels of gay "activity."

locator.mylinker.ru

"Find out how many gays live in the cities of Russia! MyLinker conducted extensive research to find homosexuals, and now you can find out how many of them are located in any city."

Type in the city and GayLocator will do the "math," which is beyond sketchy to the point of being laughable.

Know Your Meme / Via knowyourmeme.com

Using the average number of searches for "porn" per resident and the number of searches for "gay porn," the site says it can estimate the local gay population. Just to be clear, this isn't even close to how social scientists who actually study the LGBT population do things.

Here's what you get when you search for Moscow: "Oh my! There are a lot of gays in the city!"

locator.mylinker.ru / Via locator.mylinker.ru

According to MyLinker's "calculations," 173,851 of Moscow's 12.3 million residents are gay, though the site notes its number doesn't account for people who use virtual private networks (VPNs) to search for porn.

The site says they get the data for their "calculations" from a tool called Wordstat, which lets you look up the popularity of a search term by region. It was built by Yandex, a popular Russian search engine.

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"What is Airbnb trying to do?" MyLinker representative Rodion Kadyrov told Life.ru. "Teach or force a person to have a good attitude to something that he doesn't want to have a good attitude to?"

"And what if the person's life depends on it," he continued. "His livelihood comes from renting out the place. He doesn't want to take gays, but he also doesn't want to be hungry. What should he do? Leave, find another resource, or stay and give up his principles?"

MyLinker told BuzzFeed News that it is for "freedom of choice," which it says is not only about a guest's sexual orientation. "Not everyone is ready to rent their apartment out for parties, or to football fans, or to families with small children (even many hotels do not take children under the age of four), or to people who have pets. And the hosts have every right not to accept guests with a non-traditional sexual orientation," the company wrote in an email.

When asked by Life.ru if the "gay locator" could violate Russia's 2013 law banning "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations" to minors, Kadyrov said the company "definitely did not have that kind of goal. Everyone decides for himself — to be gay or not (as regrettable as it may sound), but all the same we are not for them. ... We warn that the results of the research are exploratory in nature, and the service is only available to people over 18."

A Human Rights Watch report found that violent attacks against LGBT activists increased since the ban was passed.

There are at least two Russian petitions related to short-term lodging services currently on Change.org.

One petition, featured on the MyLinker site and addressed to prominent anti-LGBT Russian lawmakers Irina Yarovaya, Vitaly Milonov, and Elena Mizulina, calls for Airbnb to be banned in Russia due to its antidiscrimination policy. It currently has 131 signatures.

The other petition asks for MyLinker's "gay locator" to be taken down because it is "discriminatory and an insult to sexual minorities," and the calculations made by the site are flawed. It currently has 2,108 signatures.

UPDATE

This post has been updated with comment from MyLinker.

Susie Armitage is the Global Managing Editor and is based in New York.

Contact Susie Armitage at susie.armitage@buzzfeed.com.

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