Nextdoor pulls 'Forward to Police' feature amid concerns over racist abuse

Low demand also played a role.

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Nextdoor, the hyper local social network, is seen on a smartphone screen in Washington, DC, on March 27, 2020. - There are offers to pick up groceries or medicine for neighbors, to share supplies, or walk people's dogs. And exchange information on where to find scarce items like toilet paper.  For people forced to stay home to ride out the coronavirus pandemic, Nextdoor, the hyperlocal social network, has found itself playing an increasingly important role. (Photo by Eric BARADAT / AFP) (Photo by ERIC BARADAT/AFP via Getty Images)
ERIC BARADAT/AFP via Getty Images

Many companies are acutely aware of the potential misuse of their technology in light of protests against police violence and racism, and Nextdoor is no exception. The neighborhood-focused service has pulled the “Forward to Police” feature that let you send safety posts or urgent alerts to cops. This was both part of “anti-racism work” and an acknowledgment that only a “small percentage” of law enforcement used the tool, according to Nextdoor.

As Bloomberg observed, there have been long-running concerns that Forward to Police made it too easy for prejudiced users to report non-White people for being “suspicious.” It could also lead to needless escalation of concerns that may be trivial at most.

Nextdoor said in a statement that it had already cut “problematic posts” by 75 percent through changing the flow of safety posts to teach people about bias and prevent knee-jerk posting. Only 0.001 percent of posts were “related to racial profiling,” the company added, and there were efforts to lower that volume further.

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Not now

There are still ways to get in touch with police through Nextdoor’s app, including direct messages. The company isn’t completely against facilitating those conversations. This is more of an acknowledgment that where and how Nextdoor users contacted the police could feed into biases.

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