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English football is set to boycott social media over sustained racist abuse online


Clubs in the Premier League, English Football League, Women’s Super League and Women’s Championship, along with the game’s governing bodies and organizations such as Kick It Out, will turn off their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts from April 30 until May 1.

In a joint statement, the group said the boycott hoped to “emphasise that social media companies must do more to eradicate online hate.”

“Social media is now sadly a regular vessel for toxic abuse. Hate has become depressingly normalised,” said Kick It Out chairman Sanjay Bhandari.

“This boycott signifies our collective anger at the damage this causes to the people who play, watch and work in the game.”

The joint statement also referred to an open letter signed by English football in February which urged social media companies to filter, block and quickly take down offensive posts, while improving the verification process of accounts.

Social media companies have come in for widespread criticism for allowing continued racial abuse of footballers on their platforms.

A host of players have been targeted with abuse online in recent weeks, including Liverpool teammates Trent Alexander-Arnold and Naby Keita.

When asked for comment on the recent announcement, a Twitter spokesperson said: “Racist behavior, abuse and harassment have absolutely no place on our service and alongside our partners in football, we condemn racism in all its forms.

“We are resolute in our commitment to ensure the football conversation on our service is safe for fans, players and everyone involved in the game. “

Facebook, which owns Instagram, said it was “committed to fighting hate and racism on our platform, but we also know these problems are bigger than us, so we look forward to continuing our work with industry partners to tackle the issue — both on and offline.”

Instagram recently launched a new tool that would automatically filter out abusive messages from accounts that users did not know.

Earlier this month, Championship club Swansea City and players from Scottish Premiership club Rangers boycotted social media for a week after their stars were targeted online.

Former Arsenal striker Thierry Henry also announced he would come off his accounts until social media companies did more to stop online abuse.

Speaking to CNN Sport, Henry said social media was “not a safe place and it’s not a safe environment.”

He continued: “I wanted to take a stand on saying that it is an important tool that unfortunately some people turn into a weapon because they can hide behind a fake account.”

‘About time’

The announcement by English football has been welcomed by players, with Sheffield United striker David McGoldrick telling Sky Sports that it was “about time” more was done.

The group also urged the UK Government to bring in legislation “to make social media companies more accountable for what happens on their platforms.”

Edleen John, The FA’s director of international relations, corporate affairs and co-partner for equality, diversity and inclusion, added: “It’s simply unacceptable that people across English football and society more broadly continue to be subjected to discriminatory abuse online on a daily basis, with no real-world consequences for perpetrators.

“This needs to change quickly, and we continue to urge social media companies to act now to address this.”



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