If social media has taught us anything, it's this: If you want to make some noise, all it takes is a tweet.
Peers, a nonprofit devoted to educating people about the sharing economy, on Thursday launched a New York-centric Twitter advocacy campaign to encourage people to tweet at state legislators in support of home-sharing services like Airbnb. Peers created a "tweet your state senator" tool, which finds your state senator based on your home address, and then offers up a prewritten tweet: "I am asking you to fight for smart, fair homesharing regulations in New York. #FixTheLaw http://action.peers.org/nyso"
The law in question was passed 2010, and lets New York City prosecute illegal hotel activity, or the short-term rentals of units in large residential buildings. Peers has gathered people who participate in the sharing economy, either as service providers (Airbnb hosts, Lyft drivers) or those who use the 21st-century platforms, to change the law and legalize short-term rentals.
Peers began its week of action on Tuesday with a visit to New York State Sen. Liz Krueger's office, where they delivered a pro-Airbnb petition. Krueger sponsored the 2010 law and has taken a stand against companies like Airbnb. In a statement earlier this year, Krueger said the majority of Airbnb hosts are not individuals scraping to make ends meet, but "large, ongoing legal business enterprises" that are making a profit on illegal rentals. Airbnb has also faced pressure from New York's attorney general, who subpoenaed the company for information on all of its hosts.
Peers and Airbnb say that people who use the service to skirt the law are bad seeds and make up just a small percentage of hosts. To back up that claim, Peers is planning to buy ads in January crowdfunded by members. The details are still murky, but the ads will share stories about real Airbnb hosts, like Evelyn Badia, who began renting out rooms in her house when she lost her job in 2010. Badia works in advertising and has struggled to find freelance work in the wake of the economic meltdown. She told TechHive that Airbnb helps her pay her mortgage and other bills, but she's not raking in cash.
"People think [Airbnb] is for funding a company, going on vacation, going back to school," Badia said. "For me, it's not. My dreams are on hold."
Peers is calling Thursday's Twitter advocacy kick-off the first of its kind on the state level. President Obama has used similar methods, like when he encouraged Americans to tweet their representatives during the 2011 debt crisis. Peers Executive Director Natalie Foster was Obama's former digital director, so it's no surprise that the nonprofit is using the same tech tools to push its message.
The Peers action campaign continues Friday with members collecting postcards of support from their neighbors at farmers and flea markets around New York.