Nextdoor Knows Its Users Are Racist

On Monday, Nextdoor announced that it is introducing a new “anti-racism” notification that will prompt users to consider editing comments that could be offensive before posting.

“The new anti-racism notification detects certain phrases such as “All Lives Matter” or “Blue Lives Matter,” and prompts the author to consider editing their post or comment before it goes live” the Nextdoor blog post reads. “The anti-racism notification does not prevent a neighbor from publishing, but aims to make people aware of language that may violate our policy against discrimination and the harm that can be caused by the use of these phrases.”

The feature builds on a “Kindness Reminder” that Nextdoor implemented in 2019, and extends it to racist language specifically. This change acknowledges years of criticism that Nextdoor is a breeding ground for racism. 

Moderators on Nextdoor are algorithmically-selected power users called “neighborhood leads” who then choose other leads to work with, which can reinforce existing dynamics in a neighborhood. At one point, moderators were found to regularly remove posts expressing any type of support for Black Lives Matter protests and going so far as to disable or ban accounts of users doing so. The problem of racism on Nextdoor got so bad that a meme account called BestofNextdoor, which raised awareness of the issue on the platform, started a petition calling for anti-racism training for neighborhood leads.  

Another example: Andrea Cervone, a Clarkston, Georgia resident and former city council member who helped organize the BestofNextDoor petition, scrubbed the platform as part of her research for an op-ed on “public participation in cities.” She previously told VICE that despite Clarkston being 80 percent non-white and 86 percent of housing inventory being rentals, “the majority of Nextdoor homeowners were white homeowners, and all the neighborhood leads were white, too.” 

Surveillance platforms like Nextdoor, but also Amazon’s Neighbors, tap into the racialized paranoia that pervades the suburbs and end up turning everyone into a cop of sorts. A social network that combines the worst parts of a neighborhood watch and a cliquey message board can add as many anti-racist notifications as it wants, but that doesn’t address fundamental issues around who has power and how they wield it. 

Nextdoor did not respond to Motherboard’s request for comment.

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