Members of Online Community Use Forum to Report Minorities ‘Walking By Too Slowly,’ Changes Made to Stop Excessive Racial Profiling
A popular social networking site has recently come under fire after complaints of members using the online forum to racially profile their neighbors.
Nextdoor.com is a private social network that connects residents in different neighborhoods, allowing users to get in touch with neighbors and stay on top of what’s going on in their community. According to the network’s official website, over 99,000 neighborhoods across America use Nextdoor.com to stay connected.
However, the San Francisco-based company was forced to make some changes to how users report suspicious activity after a group complained that some online members in Oakland were using the site to racially profile people of color, ABC News reports.
“Sometimes there would be posts about a black man walking by too slowly, and they would take his picture and post it on Nextdoor,” said Shikira Porter, Oakland resident and member of Neighbors for Social Justice. Porter says she would then ask the community members who uploaded the posts to explain exactly what crime had been committed.
According to ABC News, Porter’s group later sat down with Nextdoor officials to discuss the racial profiling incidents, but ultimately took their complaints to Councilwoman Annie Campbell Washington. Since last year, Campbell Washington has headed the council committee working alongside Nextdoor to combat the issue, the news site also reports.
“The work that Nextdoor has done is truly groundbreaking, and they were willing to meet with myself and members of the community and really dig deep to take on the issue of racial profiling and make real change in the way their users are posting,” Campbell Washington said.
Nextdoor co-founder and CEO Nirav Tolia is also working to implement changes needed to stop the racial profiling.
“We are incredibly saddened that some neighbors have used Nextdoor in this way,” Tolia wrote in a Nextdoor blog post Thursday. “Simply stated: we consider profiling of any kind to be unacceptable.”
To remedy the issue, Tolia says the company will no longer allow instantaneous postings on its crime and safety page. Users will now be required to fill out a number of forms in order to file a suspicious activity complaint, after which their post will be published online.
Online community members who wish to report suspicious activity will be asked to describe the criminal behavior first, and then detail the suspect, ABC News reports. Users will also have to describe the suspect from head to toe, rather than only identify him or her by race.
“If you make it really easy to post anything, people don’t have to think,” Tolia said. “But if you insert these decision points, it forces them to think about what they are doing.”
The company is considering new training procedures for employees as well, East Bay Express reports.
So far, Nextdoor has tried its new policies in the San Francisco Bay Area and multiple cities on the East Coast. Per ABC News, it plans to implement the changes nationwide by the summer.
But East Bay Express reports that some activists are concerned that the company’s changes don’t go far enough. Groups that have sparked initiatives against racial profiling on Nextdoor and other social networks say the company needs to put more proactive policies in place to keep racially offensive posts from appearing on the site.
“We are investigating better techniques for keeping divisive discussions productive, and we are partnering with conflict resolution experts for training and product feedback,” Tolia said in his blog post. “This is an important cause for us and we won’t let up.”