Techdirt's think tank, the Copia Institute, is working with the Trust & Safety Professional Association and its sister organization, the Trust & Safety Foundation, to produce an ongoing series of case studies about content moderation decisions. These case studies are presented in a neutral fashion, not aiming to criticize or applaud any particular decision, but to highlight the many different challenges that content moderators face and the tradeoffs they result in. Find more case studies here on Techdirt and on the TSF website.

Content Moderation Case Study: Nextdoor Faces Criticism From Volunteer Moderators Over Its Support Of Black Lives Matter (June 2020)

from the everything-is-politics dept

Summary: Nextdoor is the local “neighborhood-focused” social network, which allows for hyper-local communication within a neighborhood. The system works by having volunteer moderators from each neighborhood, known as “leads.” For many years, Nextdoor has faced accusations of perpetuating racial stereotyping from people using the platform to report sightings of black men and women in their neighborhood as somehow “suspicious.”

With the various Black Lives Matter protests spreading around the country following the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota, many companies have put out messages of support for the Black Lives Matter movement, including Nextdoor, which put up a short blog post entitled Black Lives Matter, with a few links to various groups supporting the movement.

This happened around the same time that the site started facing criticism because users posting support of the Black Lives Matter movement were finding their own posts being removed as leads were claiming that posts about the protests violated guidelines not to discuss “national and state” political issues (even when the posts were about local protests).

Meanwhile, many of the “leads” were using their own forum to complain about the company’s public support for Black Lives Matter at the same time that they believed discussing such issues on the platform violated rules. The ensuing discussion (which in many ways mimicked the wider national discussion) highlighted how frequently local leads are bringing their own political viewpoints into their moderation decisions.

When the company also added posts to local Nextdoor communities that highlighted black-owned businesses, as part of its support for Black Lives Matter, it again angered some leads who felt that such posts violated the rules they had been told to enforce.

Decisions to be made by Nextdoor:

  • When there are national conversations around movements like Black Lives Matter, when is it appropriate to take a public stand? How will that stand be perceived by users and by local moderators?
  • If the company is taking a stand on an issue like Black Lives Matter, should it then make it clear that related content should be kept on the platform -- even if some moderators believe it violates other guidelines?
  • How much leeway and power should local, volunteer moderators have regarding what content is on the platform?
  • How much communication and transparency should there be with those local moderators?
  • How involved should the company get with regards to implicit or unconscious bias that may come from non-employee, volunteer moderators?
  • Is it feasible to have a rule that suggests that local communities should not be a platform for discussing state or national political issues?  How does that rule play out when those “national or state” issues also involve local activism?
Questions and policy implications to consider:
  • When issues of national importance, such as civil rights, come to the forefront of the public discussion, there is often the likelihood of them becoming politically divisive. When is it important to take a stand despite this, and how should any messaging be handled -- especially in cases where some staff or volunteers may feel otherwise?
  • Issues of race are particularly controversial to some, and yet vitally important. How should companies handle these questions and debates?
  • Using volunteer moderators to help moderate targeted niche communities has obvious benefits, but how might historical bias and prejudice manifest itself in doing so?
Resolution: Nextdoor has continued to support the Black Lives Matter movement, and Gordon Strause, the company’s director of community, went onto the forum where some leads were complaining to explain the company’s position and why they were supporting Black Lives Matter, and to push back against those who argued that the movement itself was discriminatory, while also highlighting how there were a variety of perspectives, and there was value in learning about other viewpoints:

In an attempt to quell the furor, Gordon Strause, the company’s director of community, wrote on the leads forum on Monday from his “own perspective” and not “on behalf of Nextdoor.” Noting that “it’s of course absolutely true all live [sic] matters, whether they are black, white, brown, blue, or any other color,” he explained his views on Black Lives Matter.

“The goal of the BLM movement, at least as I understand it, is simply to make the point that black lives matter as much as any other lives but too often in America that isn’t actually what happens in practice and this dynamic needs to change,” he wrote.

“While no one that I know or respect believes that looting helps anything, there are folks that I respect (including people in my own family) who believe that riots may be a necessary step to help the country finally understand the scale of injustice that has been happening," he wrote, "while other folks I respect believe that the riots will be counterproductive and will only undermine the goals they are meant to achieve.” Strause then went on to recommend a book from psychologist Jonathan Haidt and urged leads “to listen and not to judge.”

“While Nextdoor is generally not the place for discussions of national issues, I think it’s going to [sic] hard to restrain those discussions in the coming days without being perceived as taking sides. So rather than trying to do so, I would recommend that Leads instead focus on a different goal: keeping the discussions as civil and issue focused (rather than personality focused) as possible,” he wrote.

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Filed Under: black lives matter, case studies, content moderation, local, politics, racism, social media
Companies: nextdoor


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  • identicon
    Pixelation, 22 Aug 2020 @ 11:27am

    From what I've seen, conversations on Nextdoor can devolve into angry arguments pretty quickly. Adding in BLM conversation around where I live just might lead to violence because there are some pretty immature people, the type Trump appeals to.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    icon
    restless94110 (profile), 22 Aug 2020 @ 12:06pm

    Killing?

    Um, what part of Floyd died of a drug overdose don't you understand? He wasn't killed. Content moderation is fascism. It should be outlawed. In a free country it would have been. Like 10 years ago.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Aug 2020 @ 2:41pm

      Re: Killing?

      Um, what part of Floyd died of a drug overdose don't you understand?

      The only autopsy that has come to that conclusion is the imaginary one used by right wingers so that they do not have to admit the police are capable of murder, and so attack the protestors.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Toom1275 (profile), 22 Aug 2020 @ 2:58pm

      Re: Killing?

      Um, what part of Floyd died of a drug overdose don't you understand?

      Nothing.
      We understand your message of "restless94110 is a braindead propaganda parrot" perfectly clearly.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Toom1275 (profile), 22 Aug 2020 @ 3:00pm

      Re: Killing?

      Content moderation is fascism.

      [Projects facts not in evidence]

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 22 Aug 2020 @ 3:15pm

      Content moderation is fascism. It should be outlawed.

      Ah, I see you’re comfortable with every web service out there becoming 8chan.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Aug 2020 @ 5:42am

      Re: Killing?

      "He wasn't killed."

      I look forward to your publication of relevant evidence in support of your claim. I am not holding my breath however.

      "Content moderation is fascism. It should be outlawed. In a free country it would have been. Like 10 years ago."

      Outlaw fascism or moderation? Making either one a criminal act would preclude your desire for a "free country". Your logic fails.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Aug 2020 @ 8:25am

      Re: Killing?

      Content moderation is fascism. It should be outlawed.

      Why? In reality demanding that is the opposite of free speech, in that you are demanding the ability to turn all forums into a platform for spreading your gospel of hated.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 23 Aug 2020 @ 9:53pm

      Re: Killing?

      Um, what part of Floyd died of a drug overdose don't you understand? He wasn't killed.

      You have posted this false line over and over again, and every time you do it has been debunked. He did not die of a drug overdose. There were two separate autopsies and neither one said he died of a drug overdose. Some grifters have pretended one of them did say that, but they are shopping a line to suckers.

      Don't be a sucker.

      Content moderation is fascism.

      No, it's free speech. I have the right to choose who I allow to speak on my property. You seem to think that private companies should be forced to allow any idiot asshole to mouth off?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 24 Aug 2020 @ 6:09am

      Re: Killing?

      "Um, what part of Floyd died of a drug overdose don't you understand?"

      The part where that still is a lie? Both coroners agreed that asphyxiation was what killed Floyd. The initial police coroner determined that there were traces of fentanyl in Floyd's blood, but that isn't the cause of death, and even the police coroner admitted as much.

      I realize that you have a vested interest in lying through your teeth about the cause of George Floyd's death but by now you should realize that denying the expert evidence doesn't fly on this forum.

      Hell, looking at some of your previous posts I'm inclined to applaud you for actually using Floyd's name rather than using ethnic slurs.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 24 Aug 2020 @ 6:14am

      Re: Killing?

      " Content moderation is fascism. It should be outlawed. In a free country it would have been. Like 10 years ago."

      What sort of free country outlaws private property rights?

      That you and your cross-burning brethren are getting kicked from facebook and twitter every time you start discussing the "inferiority of the black man" is something for which we are all grateful.

      And that gratitude is the feeling of actually living in countries where we are free to choose social platforms which tosses racists and bigots out on their asses.

      Did you have anything to add other than "I'm a victim of bigotry because no one wants to let me dwell in their living room and scream bigoted lies at bypassers through my bullhorn!!"?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Tin-Foil-Hat, 22 Aug 2020 @ 8:04pm

    Next Fucking Door

    I got kicked off at that social network in less than a week for violating their terms of service. I used a fake name. I mean, why wouldn't I? These crazy mfs know where I live.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    UniKyrn (profile), 23 Aug 2020 @ 10:02am

    And for a real look at how nasty people can get, have the Lead for your area move away years ago and not nominate a replacement. What little control their might have been, vanishes completely.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ligoren (profile), 27 Dec 2020 @ 5:41am

    Racism is still an issue in the United States. Recently there have been serious protests over it. Although it is possible that the last election was just as much a part of it. There are several points of view on this subject. For example, I have researched several essays on racism and the "Black Lives Matter" movement right here . I learned a lot about this movement and what their true motives are and still are. It may even come as a surprise to some. Good luck, I hope I helped!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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