Jul 2, 2020 - Technology

Nextdoor CEO pledges to address racial profiling and censorship

Nextdoor, the hyper local social network, is seen on a computer screen
Nextdoor, the hyper local social network, is seen on a computer screen inMarch 2020. Photo: Eric Baradat/AFP via Getty Images

Nextdoor CEO Sarah Friar is vowing to update the site's moderation policies and recruit more Black moderators after the hyperlocal social network came under fire for removing posts related to Black Lives Matter while tolerating racist messages, per NPR.

Why it matters: The service, where more than 265,000 U.S. neighborhoods swap roofer recommendations and lost-dog tips, is getting a hard lesson in the perils of content moderation that have dogged bigger social networks Facebook and Twitter.

What's happening: Nextdoor posts are moderated by volunteers. Friar told NPR the moderators were deleting posts about Black Lives Matter because they were following old guidelines that national issues shouldn't be discussed on the neighborhood forum.

  • Those rules have been updated to explicitly allow conversations about racial inequality and Black Lives Matter, Friar said.

Details: Nextdoor is planning to offer bias training to moderators, trying to recruit more Black moderators, and increasing removal of racial profiling posts. Friar also told NPR that its artificial intelligence-driven moderation tools are being tweaked to detect racist posts.

  • In June, Nextdoor pulled its controversial "Forward to Police" feature that lets users send posts directly to local police. There have long been concerns that the tool aided racial profiling by prejudiced users, per Engadget.
  • Nextdoor has also been criticized for its cozy relationships with police departments.

Our thought bubble: National conversations are inherently local. Nextdoor's hyperlocal nature has the potential to foster much-needed dialogue about racial inequality on a more personal level, especially during the pandemic, when neighbors aren't able to physically gather.

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