It's 'Our Fault': Nextdoor CEO Takes Blame For Deleting Of Black Lives Matter Posts
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
Nextdoor - it's the popular social media app where you report your missing dog or look for a plumber or sell a piece of furniture to your neighbor. But it also has a troubling side. For years, Black users have complained the app is used for racial profiling. More recently, the app has been criticized for censoring posts related to Black Lives Matter. NPR's Bobby Allyn takes a look at the company's plan to make the platform more welcoming to Black users.
BOBBY ALLYN, BYLINE: Ask Myesha Fruzier (ph) how often she sees racist comments on Nextdoor, and she'll tell you...
MYESHA FRUZIER: You know, it was so many I can't even count.
ALLYN: Fruzier's a Black mother of two in what she described as a mostly white, conservative-leaning community in San Diego. Like many, she's been on Nextdoor a lot during the pandemic, and she says about 90% of her neighbors come across as good, decent people.
FRUZIER: That other 10% - they must be hiding behind the computer. But I never would've thought that my neighborhood had those kind of people - racist people in it.
ALLYN: In one post, a neighbor was suspicious about a Black person who was going on a walk. Another asked, do Black Lives Matter protesters have jobs?
FRUZIER: I said, what does this have to do with equality and justice?
ALLYN: It was against this backdrop that corporate Nextdoor publicly pledged support for Black Lives Matter. At the same time, many neighborhood discussions about the movement, like Fruzier's, were being deleted. Volunteer moderators were taking them down. Some said they were just following Nextdoor's community guidelines on keeping national topics out of local threads. Nextdoor CEO Sarah Friar told NPR she's the one who's responsible for those actions by moderators. Nextdoor calls them leads.
SARAH FRIAR: Really our fault. We did not move quickly enough to tell our leads that topics like Black Lives Matter were local in terms of their relevance.
ALLYN: Nextdoor has since updated its guidance to its quarter of a million volunteer moderators and now says, yes, Black Lives Matter content is relevant in a hyperlocal neighborhood app. Friar is also announcing other steps. All moderators will soon be provided unconscious bias training, and Nextdoor is launching a campaign to recruit more Black users to be moderators.
FRIAR: That is an underrepresented group on Nextdoor. And there are others, of course, but we want to start there because we really feel that the Black Lives Matter movement is so critical and important right now to just the health of our country.
ALLYN: In northwest Indiana, Jennifer Jackson Outlaw (ph) had a lukewarm reception to these changes. She's a Black woman who became fed up with Nextdoor and deleted the app. She thinks Nextdoor's mostly white executive office needs a shake-up.
JENNIFER JACKSON OUTLAW: It's important to not only have representation as far as those who are the moderator but also those who are in the leadership of the company who may be more well-versed on some of the issues.
ALLYN: Back in San Diego, Fruzier says after complaining enough, the thread on racial justice reappeared. Scrolling through, she saw a neighbor who said Black Lives Matter was unsettling. Fruzier jumped in the discussion.
FRUZIER: The lady said she was afraid of Black Lives Matter. I said, well, if that's the way you feel, well, maybe we should meet up and talk about it.
ALLYN: And they did meet up. They met for a stroll in a local park. They swapped stories about being mothers and living in the same community. But they also talked about how different it is to be Black in America.
FRUZIER: If my son go out, I have to have a talk with him. I have to say, hey, you know, you can't wear that hoodie. Always look over your shoulder. Don't say this. You don't wear that shirt. Always be polite. And she was like, wow, really? Yeah. Yeah. That's what we have to do.
ALLYN: It's the kind of neighborly exchange on race that Nextdoor would like to see happen more often in an ideal world.
Bobby Allyn, NPR News, San Francisco.
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