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Nextdoor is a hyperlocal social networking service for neighborhoods. The company was founded in 2008 and is based in San Francisco, California. Nextdoor launched in the United States in October 2011, and is currently available in 11 countries. Users of Nextdoor are required to submit their real names and addresses to the website; posts made to the website are available only to other Nextdoor members living in the same neighborhood. Since 2015, Nextdoor has been criticized for enabling its users to racially profile people of color. As a platform, it also has been accused of operating as fear-based media, serving interests of real estate, private security, and police, reaffirming class and racial biases, and spreading conspiracy theories such as the stolen election conspiracy theory and COVID-19 misinformation.

History

Nextdoor was co-founded by Nirav Tolia, Sarah Leary, Prakash Janakiraman and David Wiesen in 2008. Tolia had previously helped start Epinions. Early investors included Benchmark Capital, Shasta Ventures, and Rich Barton. Nextdoor had 80 to 100 employees. In July 2012, Nextdoor raised US$18.6 million in venture capital funding. Dan Clancy (formerly of Google) joined Nextdoor in February 2014. On May 14, 2014, Nirav Tolia, then-CEO of Nextdoor, was charged with felony hit-and-run for allegedly fleeing a crash on Highway 101 in Brisbane, California that left a woman injured. "It's ironic that the CEO of a company that is holding itself out as trying to promote neighborliness, crime watch and things like that flees the scene of an accident that he caused and doesn't bother to call 911 or stay around to exchange information or see if he caused any injuries," said the woman's attorney, Joseph Brent. On June 12, 2014, Tolia pled no contest and served 30 days of community service in lieu of jail time. In February 2017, Nextdoor acquired the UK local social network service Streetlife in a "multimillion pound deal". Nextdoor's different privacy and safety policies reportedly provoked concerns among some users of Streetlife, some even claiming to have been damaged. Advertising was added to the platform, including real estate advertising, in 2017. Advertising includes posts inside user's feeds about business services and products. In July 2018, then-CEO co-founder Tolia announced plans to retire as chief executive officer (CEO), stating that he intended to become chair of the company's board following the transition. In October 2018, Square's former chief financial officer Sarah Friar became CEO, succeeding Tolia. Tolia subsequently retained his seat as a member of the company board of directors. In 2019, Nextdoor acquired local news site Hoodline. Later that year, ''HuffPost'' and ''Wired'' reported that Nextdoor paid a firm to improve its reputation by lobbying for changes to the Wikipedia articles on Nextdoor, NBC, and several other websites.


Usage


Typical platform uses include neighbors reporting on news and events in their "neighborhood" and members asking each other for local service-provider recommendations. "Neighborhood" borders were initially established with Maponics, a provider of geographical information. According to the platform's rules, members whose addresses fall outside the boundaries of existing neighborhoods can establish their own neighborhoods. "Founding" members of neighborhoods determine the name of the neighborhood and its boundaries, although Nextdoor retains the authority to change either of these. A member must attract a minimum of 10 households to establish a new "neighborhood", as of November 2016. While allowing for "civil debate", the platform prohibits canvassing for votes on forums. The service does however allow separate forums just for political discussions. According to ''The New York Times'', these discussions are "separated from user's regularneighborhood feeds". The company had established these separate forums in 12 markets by 2018. The company has stated it "has no plans" to accept political advertising. In a 2014 study of three neighborhoods in Atlanta, researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology found that Nextdoor users from the study tended to be highly engaged with their respective neighborhoods outside of their participation on Nextdoor. For these users, Nextdoor provided a means of communication with individuals in a geographic area, as opposed to the topic-specific focuses of mailing lists, Facebook groups, and Craigslist posts. Study participants described Nextdoor discussions as civil, and stated that the website's address verification requirement increases trust among users while also raising privacy concerns associated with disclosing one's location to the neighborhood.


Racial profiling


Starting in 2015, media outlets have reported that Nextdoor users have been racially profiling people of color in neighborhoods across the United States. In 2016, Nextdoor announced that users would be asked to submit identifying characteristics other than race when posting warnings about individuals or events in the neighborhood. Law enforcement officials in Oakland, California, who had generally embraced the forum as a means to connect with local residents, were wary of being seen as endorsing or associating with a website that enables racial profiling. Nextdoor changed its user interface, saying the purpose was to make it harder for users to create race-based posts. After the change, the Oakland Police Department said the changes made Nextdoor "more helpful" to the police department's work. Co-founder Tolia claimed in a February 2017 interview with ''Wired'' that Nextdoor reduced racial profiling in its crime and safety reports by 75 percent through user interface changes. A ''BuzzFeed News'' investigation indicated that racial profiling of people of color was still prevalent on Nextdoor as of May 2017, and that anti-discrimination measures previously announced by Nextdoor and proposed by Nextdoor's community members were incompletely implemented in Nextdoor's website and apps. ''The Atlantic'' discussed further concerns over hyperactive "crime and safety" sections of Seattle's private community pages on Nextdoor. According to ''The Atlantic'', "Seattle Mayor Ed Murray derided an atmosphere of 'paranoid hysteria' he'd witnessed on the message boards of some of Seattle's more upscale neighborhoods." The mayor told KUOW-FM, the local NPR affiliate, that Seattle's wealthiest areas are some of the most active communities on Nextdoor. "The neighborhoods where most of the social-media complaints are coming out of are not even the neighborhoods that have significant crime problems, which tend to be our communities of color in the south part of the city. If it's simply about creating a sense of paranoia or if it's about stigmatizing folks in our city that are struggling, then I have to think about why we're in that kind of partnership." ''The Root'' documented several incidents in 2019 in which people of color and one transgender person were targeted by Nextdoor users with negative comments and "Spook Alerts" – racially charged accusations of criminal activity – when they were walking in their neighborhoods. In June 2020, ''The Verge'' reported that "Nextdoor has struggled to shed its reputation as a 'snitch' app, used by white and wealthy users to racially profile their neighbors and report them to the police", an issue that New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez termed the "Karen problem" in a rebuke of Nextdoor on Twitter. During the George Floyd protests, many members of the National Leads Forum – a community of Nextdoor moderators – criticized Nextdoor's support of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and expressed a preference for All Lives Matter, a slogan that signifies opposition to BLM. A number of Nextdoor users had their accounts suspended or their posts deleted by Nextdoor moderators after commenting in race-related discussions or mentioning BLM during the protests. On June 11, Nextdoor explicitly instructed its moderators to allow discussions on the Movement for Black Lives, including BLM. In a blog post, CEO Friar denounced "systemic racism in our nation" and pledged to provide its moderators with "resources and support".


Partnerships





Police departments


Nextdoor has invited police officers and government officials into its Public Agencies Advisory Council in exchange for a commitment to promote Nextdoor using blog posts and referrals. Members of the Council participate in quarterly conference calls with Nextdoor employees and receive at least one trip to the company's headquarters in San Francisco, with all expenses reimbursed by Nextdoor. Nextdoor requires individuals who join the Council to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) that restricts them from disclosing certain types of information about Nextdoor without the company's permission. Representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation expressed concerns about the lack of transparency associated with Nextdoor's use of NDAs. The police department in Seattle had been engaging with people through "town hall meetings" held on the platform, but in 2016 local journalist Erica C. Barnett reported the meeting's possible conflict with Washington's open meeting laws.


COVID-19


Nextdoor partnered with the Centers for Disease Control and American Red Cross to help distribute information related to COVID-19 to local neighborhoods. Nextdoor also partnered with Walmart to allow users at risk of COVID-19 complications to request shopping assistance during the pandemic. Walmart locations and store hours were placed on a “Help Map” where users could post to offer help to others in their neighborhoods. Nextdoor reported an 80% increase in user engagement during March 2020, especially in areas most seriously affected by the virus.


Voting


Since 2018, Nextdoor has partnered with Vote.org to launch an interactive Vote Map during elections that mark local poll locations and allow users to share whether they have voted or plan to vote. The company exchanges services with government agencies such as the California Secretary of State's office and the District of Columbia Board of Elections. These public agencies collect and present voter-education information, such as voting locations and voter registration deadlines. This is offered as a link in the Nextdoor platform for members in those neighborhoods.


Disaster relief


The platform reports increased activity during disasters. In May 2017, the company offered its services to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to facilitate the delivery of geographically targeted "emergency and disaster preparedness" alerts through the platform. A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration partnership allows Nextdoor to send out local-community alerts during extreme weather incidents. A study on the role of social media in disaster recovery following Hurricane Harvey revealed that communities active on Nextdoor were more likely to recover at a rate faster than communities that were less active.

Financials

Nextdoor had raised $285 million in financing. About $75 million in new funding announced that month put its valuation at $1.5 billion. In a 2017 interview with ''Fortune'', CEO Nirav Tolia had projected "tens of millions" in revenue for 2017, but in 2018 declined to disclose the total revenue for the year as well as whether it is profitable. In May 2019, Nextdoor raised $123 million at $2.1 billion valuation.

References

{{Online social networking|state=collapsed Category:2011 establishments in California Category:American social networking websites Category:Community websites Category:Companies based in San Francisco Category:Internet properties established in 2011 Category:Virtual communities Category:Race-related controversies in the United States