Nextdoor App Is Gaining Clout, but There Are Downsides

Racial profiling, 'ignorant loudmouths' are among them
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 7, 2021 12:30 PM CST
Fast-Growing Nextdoor App Has a 'Loudmouth' Issue
   (Getty/Chainarong Prasertthai)

There's a decent chance you or someone you know uses the Nextdoor app or will in the not-too-distant future, based on a deep dive into the subject by Will Oremus at OneZero. The company doesn't provide numbers, but Oremus extrapolates from data known about Chicago subscribers to estimate that Nextdoor has 34 million users nationwide, which would make it the eighth-biggest social network in the US. For the uninitiated, Nextdoor is an online forum for neighborhood information—people posting about lost pets, or looking for a handyman, or opining about car break-ins. "But Nextdoor has gradually evolved into something bigger and more consequential than just a digital bulletin board," writes Oremus. "In many communities, the platform has begun to step into roles once filled by America's local newspapers." The ramifications aren't all positive, however.

On the plus side, stories about good deeds often end up being popular. On the flip side, the site's features "tend to tilt neighborhoods' priorities toward the interests of their squeakiest wheels—sometimes at the expense of their most vulnerable, and sometimes at the expense of the truth." For example, push notifications go out on posts that generate lots of comments, and those are usually the most caustic. The site also has had problems with racial profiling and vilification of the homeless, who can't join because they don't have a mailing address. Also, local officials can post announcements at the top of forums, thus bypassing checks by local journalists. "If Nextdoor at its best is a neighborly town square, Nextdoor at its worst is more like an inconsistently moderated online comment section in which the ignorant loudmouths are people you're also forced to encounter in real life," writes Oremus. (Read the full story.)

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