Thursday, March 2, 2017

Nextdoor Website Mysteriously Removes Popular Laurelhurst Contributor

A long-time Laurelhurst resident who told the Laurelhurst Blog Staff that he enjoys having a good "sense of humor" was mysteriously removed from Nextdoor, a website promoting neighborhood community, run out of San Francisco.

Nextdoor's website says:

Nextdoor is the private social network for you, your neighbors and your community. It's the easiest way for you and your neighbors to talk online and make all of your lives better in the real world.
Based in San Francisco, California, Nextdoor was founded in 2010 and is funded by Benchmark Capital, Greylock Partners, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Tiger Global Management, and Shasta Ventures as well as other investors and Silicon Valley angels.

Nextdoor lists one of its core values  as "Communicate openly."

The resident posted almost daily on Nextdoor about various issues often injecting his humor as reported by other participants of the website. 

Suddenly about 2 weeks ago he no longer had access to the site.

The neighborhood "Lead," a volunteer who lives in the neighborhood and is "granted additional capabilities" by Nextdoor, told the Laurelhurst Blog Staff:

The resident contacted me to ask if I knew why he could not get onto Nextdoor.  Everything had disappeared. I tried to re-invite him to no avail. I wrote to Nextdoor to ask what had happened.  
They responded that they could not release personal information and that I should direct the resident to contact them. I did.  
He wrote several times and got no response. I again wrote, asking them to respond to him. Still I get no response.  
I think I know how this happened.  One person was upset with me that I didn't oppose him and was going to take matters into her own hand. She must have. I don't think that is fair, but that is my sensibility.  
I do think that Nextdoor should answer him. I wrote Nextdoor 4 times and never got an answer other than saying they could not divulge personal information.   
Someone can be a new Lead. This is not for me.

Here is what the resident, who was removed, told the Laurelhurst Blog:
  • I didn't "opt out" or otherwise remove myself from Nextdoor.  I attempted to open the app over a week ago and was met with the message: "you don't have access to this content". 
  •  I  contacted one of the neighborhood local leads to Nextdoor and asked if she knew why I could no longer access or even view any Nextdoor content.  She said she didn't know  and said she would contact Nextdoor for  answers, and was basically told by Nextdoor "help" people that I should contact Nextdoor directly if I wanted to know what had happened and why.
  • I sent two email queries to Nextdoor, as they suggested, to determine what happened and why and never received a response.
  • Prior to my apparent removal, I had received several notices from Nextdoor that something I posted was flagged by a reader.  Along with the notice was a statement indicating what types of comments were not allowed and subject to "disciplinary" action, up to and including total removal from the "community."
  • I read the guidelines and determined my comments and/or photos did not fit into the "not-allowed" categories. 

Here is a sampling of some of my posts that were reported as being offensive or inappropriate:  
  • A photo of an official street sign that read "no parking east of here" (related to someone else's post about the lack of parking at Uvillage).  I wrote that I saw this sign west of Uvillage and that was probably why there was such a parking problem there.  It was a joke.
  • Someone advertised a 500 sq ft rental unit for $2100/mo.  Most readers commented that they thought that was ridiculous.  I then posted a photo of an armoire, and said it was available for rent as a micro-unit.  Most people knew this was a joke.  Coincidentally, a neighbor and friend of mine then offered, for free, a large dining room table along with 6 chairs and I commented "do you think it will fit in my micro-unit?  This comment was reported as being offensive or otherwise breaking the rules of Nextdoor.
  • I have posted several photos of extreme overgrowth of shrubs into the public right-of-way, a Seattle Municipal Code violation.  These photos and/or comments were reported.
  • I posted some photos of our neighborhood small cottages being demolished in favor of fence-to-fence mega-houses (along with the caption "another one bites the dust").  Those posts were reported.
  • After  being called by a poster a "textbook troll," that poster put up a cartoon image of an ugly green internet troll sitting at a computer, along with the caption "look familiar?"  I responded with an image of the Fremont bridge troll and the caption "my troll is cooler than your troll."

Unfortunately, all of my posts seem to have been removed from Nextdoor making them unavailable for any third-party review.

I acknowledge that Nextdoor isn't "ours" and we have no right to expect anything of it, but basically the idea of some "administrator" in California editing or censoring comments on it because one or several participants are overly-sensitive, or don't get someone else's sense of humor, is heavy-handed and wrong. 
That they specifically recommended I reach out to them for an explanation, and then ignore me when I did is just cowardice.  Each participant has the option of muting/ignoring any other participant if they don't want to read what they say. Use it.   
I've read almost 60 comments on a neighbor's Nextdoor account regarding my removal and was pretty surprised to see how many were positive and supportive.   
Thanks to everyone who supports an open and uncensored dialogue, about most anything usually enlightening and entertaining (usually my main objective in posting).  It's never been my intention to be rude, mean, disrespectful, whatever.  I have always tried to be honest with what I post.

Following the resident's removal, it was reported that a neighbor started a topic asking what happened to the resident and reportedly over one hundred people commented in support of the resident and him being reinstated. 

Posters reportedly expressed their dismay with Nextdoor not answering, in a timely fashion, the resident's or the Lead's request for information, as well as questioning Nextdoor's unexplained censorship.

However, it was reported yesterday that the topic on the removal of the resident was suddenly deleted along with the many comments from Nextdoor members.  

The Laurelhurst Blog checked in yesterday with the resident who was removed, who said:

I didn't know the posts have been removed.  The last I heard from a neighbor was that the thread contained more than 100 comments.  That alone says something about Nextdoor.   
And an update, Nextdoor finally got back to me and said they would reconsider my suspension if I agreed to abide by their rules. As I continue to believe I hadn't violated any of their rules, agreeing to do what already resulted in being suspended seemed pretty dumb, and I didn't bother responding.

Some reported comments about the issue included:
  • It is unfair that the resident has been suddenly banished from the site and disappointing that Nextdoor doesn't supply an explanation showing neither respect nor courtesy in answering his inquiries. 
  • It seems that anyone can report someone and then Nextdoor immediately acts on that report with no seeming process in place for accountability or fairness for review.  
  • Seems Nextdoor  should better communicate about the reasons a member is removed.  Transparency is key when running such a site.
  • For a neighborhood specific website, Nextdoor is disappointing in how they are handling this situation by not providing clear detail to the resident or the Lead.   They are thousands of miles away and with one click, they change the dynamics of an on-line group of neighbors, who overwhelmingly made it clear they are not happy with the decision and way of running their business.
  • I suggest we all think about removing ourselves and not supporting Nextdoor, as certainly they do not promote neighborliness, as we all do.
  • As many other have already stated, will remove my name off of the Next Door list if this is not rectified.                
  • Does the censorship mean that anyone with a sense of humor and colorful personality should now put themselves on notice and fear they are next for sudden removal? 
  • Even though Next Door appears to be promoting a local message board, it is not run or maintained by local neighborhoods, save for the Lead who serves loosely as a moderator, but carries no weight, but by a  California company supported by venture capital funding. I find more useful locally run on-line resources such as the  various Yahoo neighborhood on-line groups and neighborhood Blogs.
  • Clearly freedom of speech has been denied to the poster that was removed, of which I firmly disagree with, thus I no longer want to participate in Nextdoor.
  • I am sorely disappointed in the person who reported the resident and most likely complained because she/he did not like the poster's comments, or whatever angle was  found with the words that were upsetting.  One has the option to hide a poster's future posts.  But instead the person took unwarranted action.
  • Taking dire action by silencing someone because persons are upset by their opinion is completely unfair.  We should support open exchange, instead of shutting down someone's opinion by a hidden censor. 
  • Should we all be scared to post freely now or should we be worried that there are those who report posters they don't agree with or whose comments don't sit well with them? Is that freedom of speech or Big Brother watching us? Intelligent and informed dialogue assists in best informing community citizens.

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