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Reducing Racial Profiling on Nextdoor

Written by Nirav Tolia

Racism is one of the worst problems facing society today.

As Nextdoor has become one of the places where neighbors talk about how to make their local communities better, it is natural for the issue of race to be discussed and debated. But it’s not acceptable when mentions of race take the form of racial profiling.

Racial profiling runs counter to everything that Nextdoor represents. Over the last year, we’ve made a number of significant changes to our product to address it, including a new racial profiling flag on posts, updates to our member guidelines, and a mandatory warning screen before posting in Crime and Safety.

More recently, we have been testing an entirely new form-based process for how members create Crime and Safety posts. We are proud to report that the most effective combination of forms reduced posts containing racial profiling by 75% in our test markets. The improvements are now live in all 110,000 Nextdoor neighborhoods across the country.

Here are the key principles that drove our approach:

  1. Define a high bar for racial profiling. We worked with community members, law enforcement, and outside experts to come up with a definition that makes sense in the neighborhood context.
  1. Encourage members to stop and think before posting. We take members through a multi-step post flow with decision points that pose conversational questions to members such as: “Ask yourself – is what I saw actually suspicious, especially if I take race or ethnicity out of the equation?”
  1. Require responsible and useful posting. When race is invoked, we require multiple distinctive characteristics in the description of any people involved, so that suspicion is not cast over an entire race or ethnic group.
  1. Leverage the community to create quick feedback loops. The racial profiling flag allows our members to quickly report instances of racial profiling so that they can be removed.
  1. Test, learn, and improve product features. We have done multiple AB tests and extensive analyses that have enabled us to evaluate and measure progress. We are far from done, but this is a notable milestone in our efforts to-date.

The net result is more helpful and constructive posts that support our mission of creating stronger and safer neighborhoods. We feel fortunate that Nextdoor can serve as a platform for neighbors to come together and educate one another on racial profiling, implicit bias, and, in general, the toxic harm of racism.

It’s critical to note that we could not have done this alone. The new process was created together with Neighbors for Racial Justice100 Black Men, and police departments from across the country, as well as representatives from the City of Oakland, including Vice Mayor Annie Campbell Washington, Council Member Desley Brooks, and others.

We welcome your feedback as we continue this important work.

Nirav Tolia
Co-Founder and CEO
niravtolia@nextdoor.com

4 Comments

  • I applaud these measures.

    My neighborhood is very active on Nextdoor and it has been really useful in pulling our community closer. But, as we are one of the only Black families in our neighborhood of close to 100 homes, posts such as “Did anyone see the dark-skinned man on a bike riding through the neighborhood?” have made me a bit uncomfortable in the past because my husband could easily fit that description and be accosted by someone suspicious of his right to be in his own community.

    Another instance was when I was in my car on the way back from the community mailbox and drove around to check out landscaping in our neighborhood. By the time I got home, someone had posted about a “suspicious car driving through the neighborhood” with a description of my vehicle.

    Implicit bias is a real thing, and I appreciate the steps that NextDoor is taking to make communities safer in a more effective and responsible way.

  • I think Nextdoor is great. I have watched it grow in my neighborhood from it’s begining. English Village, Huntsville, Al. I know more of My neighbors now in the last,year than in the last 15. Mike Maloney 2112 Southpark Blvd. 35803

  • Thank you SO much, Nextdoor! I’m wary of a lot of “crime watch” groups b/c of this very issue. Good to know that you’ve worked hard to root this out as much as possible from the system.

  • I got an invitation to join Nextdoor earlier this year. However, after reading reviews, I could not in good conscious join a platform that openly allowed racial profiling. Being in a minority in a predominately white area, despite having lived in the same house for 30 years, my family has received its fair share of discrimination. Knowing that my neighbors had a platform to broadcast their biases and prejudices made me nervous and anxious.
    Today, I received another in the mail to join Nextdoor. After reading about the changes the company has made to increase more thoughtful posts, I feel like I can sign up in good faith. Thank you for making necessary changes and openly fighting against racial profiling and policing.

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