The Truth about Nextdoor.com

Over the past few years, numerous registered persons have received notices in the mail from a website called NextDoor.com and have raised concerns over the website. NextDoor is a social media website, much like Facebook or Twitter, but the hook is the focus on a local community. The idea was to create a social media outlet for your community so you can share any news of local interest from yard sales and missing pets to important events in your local community. As NextDoor’s about us page describes it:

Nextdoor is the world’s largest social network for the neighborhood. Nextdoor enables truly local conversations that empower neighbors to build stronger and SAFER communities.” (Emphasis added.)

Unlike other social media outlets, you have to send in proof of address, just like if you were signing up for a government service or utility just to be able to access NextDoor. From Next Door’s ‘About” page:

“Nextdoor makes it safe to share online the kinds of things you’d be okay sharing with your neighbors in person. Here’s how:

1       Every neighbor has to verify their address
2       Every neighbor signs in with their real name”

Would you trust Facebook with your personal information in light of their repeated controversies, including the recent Cambridge Analytica data-mining scandal? I would not, and I would treat NextDoor with the same level of distrust as I would Facebook. But NextDoor is a private forum and registered citizens are rightfully concerned about what type of information is posted about them. But registered citizens are banned from using the site. As noted on the NextDoor user agreement page, “You may not use our Services if: (1) you are a resident of the United States and are under 13 years old, or if you are a resident of the EU and are under 16 years old, (or do not meet applicable age requirements to use social media services where you live); (2) you are a registered sex offender or share a household with one; (3) we previously disabled your account for violations of our terms or policies; or (4) you are prohibited from receiving our Services or platform under applicable law.”

This policy will prevent anyone living at that address from accessing NextDoo.com. If you are a non-registant living in Apartment number 1 and a registrant lives in Apartment 101, you cannot access NextDoor. If you are someone living in the same house as a registrant, you cannot use NextDoor. If you are a non-registrant moving into a vacated residence once occupied by a registrant, you cannot use NextDoor.

Furthermore, NextDoor requires users to actively report those who are ineligible. “We need your help to enforce these eligibility requirements. If you believe that a member in your neighborhood does not meet these eligibility requirements, you may report your concerns to us via our Help Center. Nextdoor reserves the right to refuse registration to any person or household and to suspend, delete or deactivate your account or limit your privileges at any time, without liability to you.”

Like other social media outlets, some local law enforcement agencies use NextDoor. Like other social media outlets, NextDoor also has a problem with vigilantes, racists, Nosy Nellies, and other assorted scumbags, some of which has been noted extensively online. (NextDoor also discriminates aginst the homeless since you must have a verified address to use their services.) Since neighborhood watches are a central part of the advertising ploy of NextDoor, registrants have no idea who is targeting them through the website.

NextDoor justified this policy to an inquiry in 2017 by stating the following:

NextDoor stated, “While we understand that people end up on sex offender registries for a wide range of reasons and that not everyone on the registry is a threat to their neighbors, we work with more than 170,000 neighborhoods across the country and have no way of reliably determining which people on the registry are a potential threat and which are not.” Does NextDoor provide background checks on those not on the registry? No mention is made in the user agreement about any other convicted criminal. Thieves, robbers, drug dealers, scam artists, and even murderers can sign up for NextDoor. Incidentally, former CEO and founder of NextDoor Nirav Tolia pleaded guilty to criminal charges in a hit-and-run accident in 2014, remaining CEO until 2018.

NextDoor stated, “We have the added challenge that the success of Nextdoor in a community depends on our members feeling comfortable sharing personal information (both required information like their real names and addresses, as well as optional profile information–including the names and ages of their kids) with their neighbors. So if members decide they no longer feel safe sharing this information on Nextdoor, even if this belief is misguided, Nextdoor can no longer be successful in that community.” I cannot imagine people feeling safe sharing their personal information to begin with. Since most sex crime arrests are of persons lacking a criminal record, and since few on the registry are ever rearrested for a sex offense, most threats would not be banned on NextDoor in the first place. I agree with the statements some people have misguided beliefs.

The finally justification for Nextdoor’s policy is,“Nextdoor works with with thousands of police departments and public agencies, whose willingness to work with us and to recommend Nextdoor to their constituents depends in part on our commitment to keeping our members safe. So we have to be conscious of setting policies that these partners are comfortable with. And when I asked our Agency Team the question you asked us (which partner agencies feel strongly about this policy), they responded that they wouldn’t be able to single out specific ones because they are asked about this policy in every single meeting they have with potential agency partners.” If government agents are using NextDoor to pass along sensitive info that is typically a violation of the terms of use policy, then this is all the more reason not to exclude anyone from NextDoor.

Since Facebook and Twitter have been utilized by organized vigilante groups, then it is reasonable to assume that they use NextDoor as well. Since NextDoor is a local level social media, vigilante activity is more of a danger to registered persons and their families. After all, posts made about you aren’t from vigilantes a thousand miles away, but from someone possibly living next door.

In September 2018, a registrant filed lawsuit against NextDoor, arguing that the Law Enforcement use makes NextDoor a state actor. As mentioned in the suit, “As one Seattle reporter previously blacklisted by Nextdoor has aptly noted: ‘Nextdoor wants to have it both ways: To be a “partner” with cities and conduit for city officials to share information with and solicit feedback from residents, and to be a private social media app where neighborhood residents can say things to each other that they wouldn’t want to say in a public forum. I maintain it can’t be both, and that it shouldn’t be either.’” At last check, the lawsuit is still pending, though the CEO stepped down in 2018. (See original complaint at https://floridaactioncommittee.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/West-v.-NextDoor.pdf)

NextDoor wants to keep registered persons from finding evidence that members of their groups are engaging in threatening or criminal behaviors. Registrants are subject to ostracism, threats, assaults, and even murder, and it seems social media whips many up into frenzies. I find it unethical for law enforcement agencies to post registry info on social media; with NextDoor, we cannot see the listing to verify the posts even contain accurate information. NextDoor should be held accountable for their discrimination of registered persons and their loved ones.

 

Derek W. Logue of OnceFallen.com

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