On October 11, Airbnb, an Internet marketplace that helps people rent rooms, received a handy propaganda tool from one of its users.
On that day, Mishelle Farer, an Airbnb host of a spare room in Brooklyn, began a Save Airbnb in New York petition with a goal of receiving 20,000 signatures
As of today, the petition has received more than 71,000 signatures from US residents, and the goal has been revised to 80,000.
To boost response, the company has tapped into its database of members and sent out mass emails to its New York users encouraging them to sign the petition. The company claims it has 225,000 members in the city, though only about 15,000 of those are renting out space via the site.
It's assertive online rabble-rousing comes only a few weeks after it won a victory when a New York appeal board overturned an earlier ruling and reversed the fines slapped against an Airbnb host. Despite the result in this specific case, Airbnb hosts could still get fined if they are reported to the police.
Tenant advocates, building owners, and hotel managers in New York have been forming a rough alliance to block Airbnb's expansion. They say many users of the site break a law that went into effect in 2011. The law bans New Yorkers from leasing their property for under a month.
The company is lobbying to amend the state's hotel-tax and occupancy laws regarding how people rent out their homes and what taxes they must pay. One of its arguments is that the laws are "unconstitutionally vague."
Airbnb also says that 87% of Airbnb hosts rent out the home in which they live, and that they're legally allowed to do so as legislation is currently written.
The company's CEO Brian Chesky recently said his company was willing to work with legislators to make sure that their hosts paid appropriate levels of hotel occupancy taxes.
Fighting a subpoena
The fight between Airbnb and its opponents is currently focused on pressuring state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
On October 6, Schneiderman served Airbnb with a subpoena, requesting three years' worth of details on about 15,000 New York-area subletters -- as part of his investigation into illegal hotels.
Airbnb has filed a petition to quash the subpoena, which it says is "unreasonably broad."
According to the New York Daily News, the Attorney General's office has requested the same user data from similar online services, and all have cooperated.
Airbnb is a target because of its market leading position in by-the-day private rentals. In the last nine months, it serviced 5 million guests worldwide.