OAKLAND, Calif. --A San Francisco social network that allows residents to share information with neighbors is taking a big step towards ending racial profiling on its site. The change was triggered by some neighborhoods in Oakland.
Neighbors in Oaklands' Dimond neighborhood helped get the ball rolling, by airing their concerns that some of the posts on the website Next Door were vague and even offensive.
They took their complaints to the city council and vice mayor Annie Campbell Washington and they took the concerns straight to the top and found Next Door's ceo receptive.
"This was racial profiling neighbor versus neighbor," Campbell Washington said.
"When it comes to the content that people are posting we care more about quality than quantity," said Next Dorr CEO Nirav Tolia.
But being receptive didn't translate into quick action. First, they had to define the problem. For example, when a neighbor posts, "I see a dark-skinned man breaking into cars."
"That is racial profiling because the criminal act described with the individual involved race is the only descriptor," Tolia said.
Next Door is a private social network that allows neighbors to post info about local events and incidents. The company spent the past year consulting with neighborhood groups, politicians and experts and Wednesday they rolled out new protocols that require more detailed descriptions before a member can post about suspicious behavior.
"We start by forcing you to go through a series of screens we call decision points that make you stop and think before you post," Tolia said.
That's called friction in the tech industry, making a user do more to post. It's the opposite of what most web companies try to do. But Oakland officials say it's worth it.
"I am thrilled with the changes because what I believe we're seeing is a tech company that's pioneering," Campbell Washington said.
Not everybody agrees. Some Next Door users have dropped out as a result. But, the company says it's a trade off they can live with.