UK football clubs and players have started a four-day social media boycott to protest racist abuse online and to call on social media companies to do more to control their platforms.
There was initially a joint boycott announcement from the English Football Association, the Premier League, the English Football League, the Women’s Super League, the Women’s Championship as well as players, coaches and football organizations. referees, the anti-discrimination group Kick It Out and the Women In Football group.
Ahead of the boycott starting at 2:00 p.m. GMT on Friday until 10:59 p.m. GMT on Monday, other English sports such as cricket, rugby, tennis and horse racing said they would be silent on social media.
FIFA, UEFA and UK Premier League broadcasters have also said they will not post online for the four days.
Such is the anger throughout the game, it means that if Manchester City win the Premier League trophy on Sunday, they will not be celebrating the title on social media.
We are shutting down our social media channels from 3:00 p.m. on Friday, April 30, until 11:59 p.m. on Monday, May 3, in response to sustained and ongoing online abuse.#Sufficient | #StopOnlineAbuse pic.twitter.com/toiIg3FfWW
– Raheem Sterling (@ sterling7) April 30, 2021
“What we’re saying is there aren’t enough security settings, not enough oversight, not enough app on social media platforms right now,” Edleen John, Director of Relations international, corporate affairs and co-partner for equality, diversity and inclusion at the English FA, told Al Jazeera.
“And that’s why there is this horrible culture of abuse that is going on day in and day out with no consequences for many people all over the world.”
The Professional Footballers Association, which represents players from England and Wales, said it had carried out an investigation which showed that 31 of the 56 discriminatory and abusive messages reported to Twitter in November were still visible.
The PFA also said it provided Twitter with a list of 18 other tweets containing targeted, extreme and racist abuse directed at players, 15 of which are still online.
“This situation is absolutely unacceptable,” said Simone Pound, PFA director for equality, diversity and inclusion.
“While the platforms repeatedly stress that they are doing all they can to tackle online abuse, extreme racist abuse remains visible on Twitter five months after we provided them with clear evidence of abusive content.
“For people to believe that social media takes this problem seriously, we need to see them tackle the problem and find solutions.”
A study conducted by the anti-discrimination network Fare with the Belgian artificial intelligence company Text found that 157 players involved in the last eight Champions League and Europa League tournaments last August had been subject to discriminatory abuse on Twitter.
Six months later, 66% of discriminatory tweets remained online, as did 71% of accounts, Fare said, noting that while ethnic minority players experience more racist abuse, homophobic abuse is sent to players all over the place. throughout the match.
In February, English football organizations sent an open letter to Facebook and Twitter, calling for the blocking and swift removal of offensive posts, as well as an improved verification process for users.
Twitter said it remains committed to the fight against racism.
“Racist behavior, abuse and harassment have absolutely no place on our service,” a Twitter spokesperson told Sky Sports.
“Since the start of the season there have been over 30 million tweets from people in the UK about football. During that time, we have eliminated over 7,000 people in the UK who were targeting the football conversation with Twitter rule violations.
“We have worked to improve our proactive measures… and have also provided expedited reporting channels to our football partners to ensure that any potentially violent content is reviewed and dealt with promptly.”
For Facebook-owned Instagram, a racist post is not enough to immediately suspend a user.
Instagram’s measures to stamp out racism have focused on action against abusive direct messages more than on public posts.
Premier League social media accounts will now be silent until Tuesday, May 4.
– Premier League (@premierleague) April 30, 2021
John, of the England FA, said such abuse could have lasting effects on players and their families.
“We can’t sit back and allow this to continue to happen and that’s why, for us as the governing body of English football and the football and sport collective more broadly, we really had to use our voices and call others to support us.
The UK government is in the process of introducing an online safety law that could result in fines for social media companies for failing to crack down on racism.
“We could see fines of up to 10 percent of global annual turnover,” Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden wrote in the Friday editions of The Sun. “For a business like Facebook or YouTube, that could add up to billions.”
Manchester United announced on Friday that six fans have been banned for racial abuse of Tottenham striker Son Heung-min on social media.
United also found in a review of Twitter, Instagram and Facebook that 3,300 abusive posts targeted their players between September 2019 and February 2021. Chelsea also said on Friday that a supporter had been banned for 10 days for anti-Semitic posts.
The PFA is bracing for more social media interruptions.
“Personally, I think this could be the first in a series of boycotts,” Pound said. “We can do this every week if we have to. It’s not going to go away. They have to listen to us.