My NextDoor Suspension: Updates

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Ars Technica and Geekwire have both covered the story about NextDoor temporarily booting me off their service because I published some of the questions their members asked police chief Kathleen O’Toole in what was billed as a public forum on the site. (NextDoor is an official “partner” with the City of Seattle; I have filed records requests to find out more about what that entails.) In an email, a NextDoor representative told me that posts from O’Toole herself were public, but that the questions citizens asked her during this town hall, which SPD explicitly billed as a public forum, were private and proprietary. NextDoor restored my service after I wrote about their decision to kick me off for allegedly violating their terms of service.

In the case of communications with public officials, at least, those terms of service bump up against state law. The state’s public records act makes all communications with city officials like the police chief a matter of public record, so NextDoor was incorrect when they said those records aren’t public; they are.  However, their suspension of my account raises a more fundamental question of whether the tens of thousands of people who share information and opinions on NextDoor have a reasonable expectation that everything they say there will stay there.

NextDoor is enforcing its terms of service as if the agreement not to share information contained therein is as ironclad as attorney-client privilege: Any leaks must be tracked and punished. However, they’re simultaneously pretty lax about punishing people who publish private information about public officials, such as their home addresses; as I write this, city council member Mike O’Brien’s home address has been public on the site for several days, and some NextDoor denizens are agitating for homeowners to set up camp in front of his house. And they’re still partners with the city, which posts information about public meetings, service opportunities, and criminal activity on the site.

So 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.

6 thoughts on “My NextDoor Suspension: Updates

  1. Pingback: Nextdoor Emails Show City’s Vision for Partnership | The C Is for crank

  2. Big deal, sleeping in front of city officials homes is the wrong way to go. CM O’Brien has children- sleeping in front of his home will scare his children, not nice! And it will upset neighbors.

    The correct way to make a point is make an appointment with which ever CM and have a discussion, you can even make an appointment with Mayor Murray. Much more grown up way to handle a problem.

    I also suggest to find out about the extremely difficult situation of heroin abuse in our city that everyone should watch the PBS Frontline special that spotlights Seattle. After watching that I suggest you let your Federal Officials know that they are responsible for the heroin problem our country has. A doctor can prescribe all the Oxycodone he wants to but is limited by the amount of the drug that blocks the craving to use heroin. The craving for heroin is stronger the will to quit. Locking heroin users up in a jail does not solve the problem. Getting our medical system corrected will solve the heroin problem and put the Mexican cartels out of business.

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  3. Good luck with asking the City to enforce laws. We all know they only enforce the ones they agree with and enforcement is not equal for everyone.

    Ask Ballard about how well they enforce parking laws and public camping.

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  4. 1.) You mention houses being listed as having been built in 1900. This is a fiction the city / county has maintained since Y2K. Purportedly it was feared that the government computers could not handle the wildness of homes built in the 1800s carrying over into the 21st century. As a result, all thoses built before 1900 (like the one I live in) are listed as 1900. It hides the stock of houses well over 100 years old very well and facilitates their demolition. 2.) Until relatively recently every inquiry by phone, mail or electronic media made to the city was required to be given an answer by someone from that department.Even if the answer was “We can’t answer that question at this time,” at least a citizen knew their question had been seen. The current administration has no such rule. They also are the most difficult in history to reach at all, the wall of gate keepers is astonishing. It leaves me wondering just how isolated the person in charge is. The classic inner-outer sanctum wisdom is, if the gatekeeper feels threatened by your message, the inner folks will never see it. (Overdone in movies and such…the ‘counselor’ who hovers around the king and only passes along what they want the king to hear.)

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  5. >>So 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.

    –Point well taken about the City not using NextDoor as an official forum. I assume you’ll be pursuing that with the City, since they’re the ones who made that call. The crux of the problem here is that NextDoor is neither fish nor fowl. It’s not purely a social network nor is it purely a private neighborhood group.

    As to people posting CM O’Brien’s home address online, yes, that is tacky. On the other hand, his address is generally available and he is a public figure. I doubt that this will lead to anyone actually camping out on his lawn, but in case you had forgotten, SHARE (the homeless advocacy group that contracts with the City) actually DID do camp-outs at the homes of public officials. Remember this:

    http://www.king5.com/story/news/local/2014/07/29/12801866/

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