May 06, 2021

Social media boycott sent 'powerful and united message' as sports world reacts

May 04, 2021

The Football Association has called on the Government to introduce legislation to compel social media companies to do more to stop online abuse following the sport community's powerful and united four-day boycott.

Reaction to the four-day social media boycott to tackle online abuse and discrimination - which ended at midnight - has continued to pour in with Kick It Out chief executive Tony Burnett also appearing on Sky Sports News to lay out what he wants to see happen next.

Former West Ham, Sunderland and Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand also revealed to Sky Sports News that he is set for a meeting with the social media giants where the boycott will be discussed and what steps will be taken next to fight online abuse.

Sky Sports joined the wider sporting community in taking part in the boycott and did not post any sports content to its channels on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat and TikTok for the duration of the boycott period from 3pm on Friday April 30 until 11.59pm on Monday May 3.

An FA statement, also posted by England captain Harry Kane, said the boycott of social media was to "demonstrate our collective anger. But this won't eradicate abuse on its own.

"We will continue to challenge social media companies to make changes to their platforms, urge Government to introduce strong legislation quickly and request that individuals call out and report online abuse when they see it."

The Premier League, EFL and all member clubs all called for social media companies to take definitive action to end all forms of abuse.

"English football, sporting organisations and people across the world united over the weekend to boycott social media, challenging platforms to do more to stop online discriminatory abuse," said a statement.

"We now call on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to use their power to affect change and ensure there are real-life sanctions for online hate.

"We invite these social media companies to respond to our requests for action."

Kick It Out's four demands to social media giants

Kick It Out chief executive Tony Burnett sat down with Sky Sports News to lay out what he wants to see happen next and has outlined four key demands.

"I think the main thing that's changed is not just the football community - the sporting community - all coming together to send a very clear message to the social media organisations," he said of the boycott.

"Enough is enough. If change doesn't happen, we're going to keep campaigning for the four things we have demanded - more prevention, so [harmful] stuff doesn't get onto the platforms and is taken down quicker.

"Account verification, I know Thierry Henry has talked about that as well. We want better punishments, when people do infringe other people's civil rights online and for the government to hold social media companies to account. We will not stop until those things happen.

"We want the social media organisations to come to the table now. No more platitudes about what they've done and how many issues they've resolved.

"We want the four issues we have spoken about resolved and tangible commitments to do that. We want better prevention, account verification, those who commit crimes online to be punished - and punished quickly.

"We want the government to hold social media organisations to account through the Online Harms Bill and that needs to progress through Parliament faster than the current plan."

Kick It Out boss lays out next steps to tackle racism

Kick It Out chief executive Burnett also feels the wider problem of systematic racism in society needs to be discussed and taken seriously.

"Let's compartmentalise the social media issue for a second," he added. "It's a very important issue. It affects three billion people.

"Looking at the wider issue, the discussion we are still not having as a society is the issue of systemic racism. We are frightened of that conversation.

"If we are going to get over this we need to make a positive environment where people feel comfortable talking about race. It's been uncomfortable the last few years and the discussion has become polarised, people have taken sides.

"We need to move to a situation where people with good values feel comfortable having an open discussion about race. That way we can move forward and make progress, not defend our positions and take sides.

"Since I have come into football, I am seeing the [anti-racism] work which is being done. The Diversity Code the FA launched is really positive as for the first time it sets representation goals.

"I think there's a lot of other work that needs to happen. The data capture system around football is very poor, the fact that people can't tell us what representation we have in areas such as coaching and the media.

"I also think there is a lot of work needed in broader society. The recent race report the government announced didn't address a lot of the issues we need to talk about.

"While as a society we are in denial about race and about issues that affect people from black backgrounds in particular, then we are not going to see the progress we need.

"That's not an excuse for football. Football can do more, but as a society we need a far more honest discussion about race and the issues we need to attack before we can make progress.

"In terms of sport, we need better representation. There is a lot of work to do and many years to go, unfortunately."

Ferdinand set for meeting with social media giants over boycott

Former West Ham, QPR and Sunderland defender Anton Ferdinand has been speaking to Sky Sports News about the boycott and revealed he is set for an upcoming meeting with the social media giants to discuss the four-day online event.

Ferdinand recently opened up about his high-profile racism case against John Terry in 2011 for the first time in the BBC documentary Anton Ferdinand: Football, Racism and Me.

"I'm lucky enough to be involved in conversations with the social media companies - Twitter, Instagram and Facebook - with the footballing bodies," Anton Ferdinand told Sky Sports News.

"We have a meeting coming up in a few weeks' time. We will definitely be discussing the boycott and what happens in the future."

Asked if the social media giants were listening on the issue of online abuse, and if they are taking it seriously and want it eradicated from their platforms, Ferdinand added: "That's the biggest question.

"That's always my question in these meetings. It always comes down to one thing, do you really want to eradicate racism off your platforms? At the moment, the answer is no.

"We are still fighting and battling with them. Until it is eradicated and off the platforms, we won't be where we want to be. That's the fight we are in. Off the back of this social media boycott, they know they are in for a fight.

"Being in the meetings and hearing what is being said, being vocal myself, I am hopeful. We still have a long way to go, but showing this unity over the last three days can only make it better."

Villa, Man Utd, Leicester react to social media boycott

"We have sent a powerful and united message," Premier League club Aston Villa posted on their Twitter page. "We sincerely hope the message is heard, understood and positive changes are made. Thank you for your support."

Manchester United posted: "Zero tolerance, all of the time. Our commitment to combatting online abuse will always continue.

"Nobody should suffer from any form of racist abuse or discrimination. Enough is enough."

Leicester posted a video of their men's and women's players who called for an end to the online abuse.

"Let's work together to end all forms of discrimination," Foxes winger Harvey Barnes said in the 44-second clip.

Who joined the social media boycott?

The FA, Premier League, EFL, FA Women's Super League, FA Women's Championship, PFA, LMA, PGMOL, Kick It Out and the FSA united for the boycott from Friday through to Monday.

The Scottish FA, Scottish Professional Football League, Scottish Women's Football and PFA Scotland also confirmed the participation of clubs and football organisations in Scotland.

UEFA gave its backing on Thursday, urging players, clubs and national associations "to lodge formal complaints whenever players, coaches, referees or officials are victims of unacceptable tweets or messages".

FIFA said it supports the English football-led social media boycott in response to discriminatory and offensive abuse on social media.

Key organisations from other UK sports - such as the England and Wales Cricket Board, England Rugby, Premiership Rugby, Scottish Rugby, the Professional Darts Corporation, British Cycling, the Lawn Tennis Association and the British Horseracing Authority - opted to join, as did other broadcasters including BT Sport, At The Races and talkSPORT.

The British Basketball League and Women's British Basketball League also supported the boycott along with key rugby league organisations including the Rugby Football League, Super League Europe, Rugby League World Cup 2021 and the Rugby League Players' Association.

Premier League sponsors Nike, Budweiser, EA Sports and Barclays also joined.

Henry on social media boycott: It's a start

Thierry Henry feels football's decision to follow his social media boycott is "a start" on the journey to ending online abuse.

Henry is pleased his decision to quit social media in March "created a wave", resulting in the wider sporting community boycotting the platforms.

"It's a start because people talked about it," Henry told Sky Sports on Monday Night Football. "I'm still off it by the way.

"At the end of the day, if I stayed on it and talked about it on it, I don't think people would have wanted to talk to me about it. So I came off it, a lot of people came to talk to me about it, I talked about it, and it created a wave.

"I'm more than happy that people realised what's at stake not only in football, not only because of racism, because of bullying, harassment and how you can get abused on there.

"I think we all have kids, you don't want to see that [happen to them]. My daughter is going through it, a lot of people here I'm sure watching are trying to see what the situation can be. Can it be regulated?

"A friend of mine was doing some live exercise on it and the music in the background stopped the video because he didn't own the rights to the music. If you can manage to do that, surely with an NHS number - maybe passport can be difficult because not everybody has a passport - but we need to know who is behind those accounts.

"When I saw the reaction personally of football - that was amazing. And the reaction of everybody not only football because it seems like in the past few days everybody came to support it.

"I was really happy about it, I always mentioned the strength of the pack."

What have the social media companies said?

A Twitter spokesperson told Sky Sports News: "Racist behaviour, 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.

"Since the season started on September 12, there have been over 30m Tweets from people in the UK about football. In that time we have removed over 7,000 Tweets in the UK that were targeting the football conversation with violations of the Twitter Rules. This represents roughly 0.02 per cent of the overall football conversation in the UK and does not reflect the vast majority of people who engage in vibrant discussions about football on Twitter.

"We have worked to improve our proactive measures, where now 90 per cent of the abuse targeting players is removed without the need for a user report. We've also provided expedited reporting channels to our football partners to ensure any potentially violative content is reviewed and actioned swiftly.

"Racism is a deep societal and complex issue and everyone has a role to play. We are committed to doing our part and continue to work closely with valued partners in football, government and police, along with the working group convened by Kick It Out to identify ways to tackle this issue collectively - both online and away from social media."

Facebook, which owns Instagram, said it would "continue listening to feedback and fighting hate and racism on our platform" and work with UK police on hate speech.

A Facebook spokesperson said: "No one should have to experience abuse anywhere, and it's against our policies to harass or discriminate against people on Instagram or Facebook.

"We agree with and have already made progress on many of the players' suggestions, including taking tougher action against people breaking our rules in DMs.

"We also recently announced that, starting next week, we'll provide new tools, based on consultation with footballers and anti-discrimination experts, to help prevent people seeing abusive messages from strangers."

Sky Sports News has also contacted Snapchat, Tik Tok, and YouTube for a response.

Hate Won't Stop Us

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Kick It Out reporting racism

Online Reporting Form | Kick It Out

Kick It Out is football's equality and inclusion organisation - working throughout the football, educational and community sectors to challenge discrimination, encourage inclusive practices and campaign for positive change.

www.kickitout.org

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