After ripping off features from TikTok, Snapchat, and just about every other popular app, it seems like Facebook is setting its sights on the hyperlocal platform Nextdoor, just days after rumours emerged it was chasing a multi-billion dollar IPO.
First shared by social media guru Matt Navarra on Twitter, Facebook’s new “Neighbourhoods” feature is being branded as a way for Facebookers to “discover what’s happening where [they] live.” A spokesperson for the company confirmed to Bloomberg this platform is being beta-tested in the Canadian city of Calgary right now, with the potential for a wider release if that goes swimmingly.
According to the screenshots Navarra shared, being a part of one of these Neighbourhood groups gives Facebookers a feed full of posts and groups specific to their region, along with any marketplace items for sale from folks in the area. You can also create a Neighbourhood-specific profile so people who aren’t already your Facebook friends can see what you’re all about.
Navarra also noticed a reminder from Facebook that people on the Neighbourhoods platform should be “inclusive,” and “kind” to their so-called neighbours, regardless of their race, ethnicity, or gender identity.
From avid Nextdoor users (including myself), that might raise a few eyebrows: the platform has a years-long track record of enabling casual racism to run rampant. As far back as 2015, some neighbourhood groups would raise red flags if they even caught a whiff of a person of colour “being sketchy” or “lingering” too close to their home. And although the company’s tried to implement some safeguards against profiling in the years since, activists say these meager measures are far from enough.
I’m happen to agree: The Nextdoor groups for my neighbourhood — which happens to be overwhelmingly white — turned into an absolute quagmire of slurs, stereotypes, and just general nastiness this summer. Recently, one of my “neighbours” responded to a post about an unnamed shoplifter hitting a local convenience store by saying that “criminals of colour are empowered by the BLM movement. They know businesses are cowering…..” I’ve also seen other posts about everything from homelessness to social distancing key into similar racially-motivated paranoia — explicitly or otherwise.
If these are the sorts of conversations that tend to naturally evolve on a neighborly platform, then bringing that kind of platform to Facebook can only result in some kind of a dumpster fire of racial bile, since this is a company that boasts its fair share of groups dedicated to white supremacy, right-wing violence, and, well, you get the idea — and doesn’t seem too keen on actually cracking down on them.