Nextdoor removed its ‘Forward to Police’ app feature after racial profiling concerns

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  • Nextdoor, the local social networking platform announced it was ending a feature that allowed users to share their concerns directly with local law enforcement.
  • The site has faced years of criticism that its close relationships with local authorities that are accessible through the app amplified unfounded concerns and racial profiling by its users.
  • The announcement came after Nextdor’s CEO said in a blog post that the platform “exists to foster” conversations that can connect neighbors and drive change in systemic racism “in a civil, productive way.” 
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Nextdoor, the online local networking platform for neighbors, announced it is ending its “Forward to Police” feature after it has long been criticized for facilitating racial profiling.

The feature was introduced in 2016 to allow users to directly share their posts with local police. It was one of several crime-monitoring tools on the site that have raised concerns about the ease with which users can trigger a police response based on unexamined suspicions as described by outlets like Bloomberg’s CityLab and The Atlantic.

A statement posted on the company’s site late Thursday said the decision came about “as part of our anti-racism work and our efforts to make Nextdoor a place where all neighbors feel welcome,” and was ultimately cut because of its low engagement with users and law enforcement.

“After speaking with members and public agency partners, it is clear that the Forward to Police feature does not meet the needs of our members and only a small percentage of law enforcement agencies chose to use the tool,” the company’s post read.

Bloomberg’s CityLab reported that the company is keeping other features that facilitate communication with law enforcement, including one that allows direct messages. The features are a small look at the site’s extensive relationship with law enforcement agencies continues that has raised concerns with privacy experts.

In recent years, the platform has attempted to confront racially charged interactions from users, even using data-centric approaches and artificial intelligence to cut down on insensitive or profiling posts, but critical reports have persisted as the neighborhood forum has faced the questions of moderation and monitoring common to social networking.

The site, which was founded in 2011, not only connects neighbors but also provides a reliable link for local government, police, and fire departments to keep their ears to the ground in communities, cofounder Prakash Janakiraman previously told Business Insider.

As coronavirus spread across the US and more Americans found themselves stuck at home, the site’s “engagement picked up at the end of February and then skyrocketed from March,” Janakiraman told Business Insider, and “usage is up 80% in most neighborhoods.”

Despite the climbing popularity, the most recent challenge for the platform came in the wake of protests across the US over racism and police brutality, when reports floated that community moderators were removing posts from local boards that mentioned Black Lives Matter despite the company’s official statement of support for the movement.

Nextdoor’s CEO Sarah Friar said in a June 11 blog post that “systemic racism in our nation will not be solved overnight,” but the company was addressing racism in its corporate culture and on its site by emphasizing diversity in hiring, strengthening community moderation, and drawing “a firm line against racist behavior” on its forums.

https://markets.businessinsider.com/news/stocks/nextdoor-removed-police-feature-criticism-racial-profiling-2020-6-1029327233

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