The Guardian posted a profile of Andrew Tierney, a UK man who has begun fighting anti-bicycle trolls. It delves into the kinds of online abuse he sees and his strategies for addressing it.
Tierney, who goes by the name @cybergibbons online, is part of a new breed of cycling activists. After noticing an increase in the amount of abuse and violent threats on social media directed at people who ride bikes, Tierney decided to take action. He started calling out the posters online, with the result that many deleted their comments or even their accounts.
“There can be videos of them with their kids, yet they’re making a statement that they want to go out and harm someone, and they think that this is completely acceptable because it’s a comment about cyclists. That genuinely shocked me.”
While the abuse aimed at bicycle riders is far from the most toxic behavior that exists on social media, it’s still troubling. Tierney observes that these threatening comments would get quickly called out if made against any other class of person, but making them against people on bicycles is seen as socially acceptable.
“If someone says something racist [online], on the whole, people will challenge those views,” he says. “It should be the same for threats made against cyclists; challenge those who make these statements.”
Social media companies should definitely put this on their radar and clamp down, but it also exposes a deeper social problem. These people aren’t anonymous trolls. Ordinary people, the kind who go online to post videos of their kids, are feeling enabled to casually post violent comments.
Which means that companies can only be one part of the solution. Andrew Tierney can’t change this alone. We need to all help make violent comments against bicycle riders socially unacceptable.