Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Blogging Bloggers: Facebook Refuses to Remove Group Promoting Anti-Cyclist Violence

A number of Streetsblog readers have noticed a particularly loathsome group that has sprouted up on Facebook and has a legion of fans. As of this writing, more than 32,000 people are fans of "There's a perfectly good bike path right next to the road you stupid cyclist," a group page with a bunch of anti-cyclist screeds and some pretty nasty photos of bicycle crashes and car-on-bike violence. Facebook has concluded that the group does not violate the site's terms of use and will not shut it down.

"It's a stupid and offensive joke and unfortunately there are still people who don't see that bicyclists have the same rights as everyone else," said Marc Caswell, Program Manager at the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. "It's a cruel example of the ignorance of cyclists' rights. We would encourage people to report it as offensive."

The site is full of the vitriol one has come to expect online and in anonymous comment sections, but unlike blogs or online forums, all the fuming leaves a clear path to the users who posted it.

The first user to link the group was from Australia, and several of the references to road rules are of British provenance or from former British colonies. In the "About Me" section, it reads: "No matter how far to the left you are, you're taking up my road. My car is hard, and i am not slowing down!"

In addition to creating a counter group called "HELP REMOVE this HATE GROUP against cyclists!", a number of cyclists have become fans of the original group and have posted agitprop in the form of bicycle photos. While there are disturbing photos of cars creaming cyclists and road signs promoting violence against cyclists, the photo album is full of pictures of the kind of bike porn you might expect on Bike Blog or Fixed Gear Gallery. And there are easily as many photos of "Share the Road" signs as the opposite.
Streetsblog asked Facebook whether this group violates their Terms of Use, particularly sections 6 and 7, under "Safety":
6. You will not bully, intimidate, or harass any user.
7. You will not post content that is hateful, threatening, pornographic, or that contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence.

Facebook's Simon Axten told us the group has been reviewed and deemed kosher by the company's staff. Presumably the reason they are not removing this group boils down to how one interprets the phrase "actionable threats of violence." Here's Axten's explanation:

We take our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities very seriously and react quickly to remove reported content that violates our policies. Specifically, we're sensitive to content that includes hate speech and/or actionable threats of violence. The goal of these policies is to strike a very delicate balance between giving Facebook users the freedom to express their opinions and beliefs, even controversial ones, and maintaining a safe and trusted environment.

We've reviewed this group and determined that it doesn't violate our policies. We encourage users to report anything they feel does violate these policies using the report links located throughout the site. Thanks.

Any legal minds care to comment?

1 comment:

  1. I would not call myself a "Legal Mind" per se, but I do consider myself as possessing, to at least some degree, the potential for logical, rational thought. This site should, in my opinion, be removed. "Us and Them" scenarios almost always lend themselves to negative and hateful attitudes and behavior. WW2 was a prime example (ethnic cleansing). We ALL share the road (legally and in practice) so there should not, under the law, be any "us and them" scenario. We are all just road-users. Some are faster, slower, bigger, wider, powered and unpowered. We live together in a geographic location. We all have to compromise a bit.

    People use sites such as this to service their perverse desires to breed hate. They will do this regardless of whether it is in the name of "anti-terror" (look up some of the nut cases on youtube who are starting their own little anti-terrorist camps) or "anti-immigration" or "anti-cyclist" or whatever.