Fb, Instagram, Twitter boycotted by British sport over abuse

Arsenal Bosnian defender Sead Kolasinac (R) was born in Germany and plays the ball during the English Premier League soccer match between Arsenal and Manchester United on March 10, 2019 at the Emirates Stadium in London.

Ben Stansall | AFP | Getty Images

LONDON – The world’s largest social media platforms are being boycotted by UK sports teams, athletes and leading sports federations for lack of action on online abuse.

Facebook, Instagram and Twitter will be avoided from 3:00 p.m. London time on Friday until 11:59 p.m. on Monday.

The boycott welcomed by sports like soccer, rugby and cricket comes from the continued criticism of US tech giants for failing to eradicate racist and sexist abuse posted on their platforms.

Facebook, which owns Instagram, and Twitter said that racism and other forms of abuse have no place on their platforms.

Anti-discrimination organizations like Kick It Out and Show Racism the Red Card are involved in the boycott, as are the governing bodies of the sport.

Kick It Out announced in September that reports of discrimination in professional football rose 42% over the past season, with the number of incidents rising from 313 to 446.

Former Arsenal World Cup winner and record scorer Thierry Henry, who walked off social media last month, hailed the boycott as a “start” in the fight against racism and discrimination.

“(What) the world of English football is doing and what’s going to happen over the weekend, people ask me, ‘Is it enough on the weekend?'” He told CNN this week. “And I think, ‘It’s a start.’ You know, you can’t be too greedy if you don’t have anything to do with it. It’s a start. “

Troy Deeney, captain of Watford Football Club, told the BBC on Friday that many athletes receive abusive messages online on a daily basis while some people find out about it hourly.

On Friday morning, Alex Scott, who played for Arsenal and England before joining the broadcaster, urged the public to get involved. “Join in and switch off too, because we are calling for change together,” she wrote on Twitter.

Richard Masters, Chief Executive of the Premier League, said in a statement: “Racist behavior of any kind is unacceptable and the appalling abuse that players receive on social media platforms must not continue.”

He added: “The Premier League and our clubs stand alongside football in carrying out this boycott to highlight the urgent need for social media companies to do more to eradicate racial hatred. We are not going to stop social media. Challenge companies and want to see significant improvements in their business. ” Policies and processes to combat discriminatory online abuse on their platforms. “

Fines of up to 10% of global annual sales

Before the boycott, Manchester United wrote on Twitter: “Since September 2019 online abuse against our players has increased by 350%. We need change.” Separately, Everton Football Club said on Twitter: “Enough is enough” and used the hashtags “#StopOnlineAbuse” and “NoRoomForRacism”.

UK Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden wrote in UK newspapers this week that social media companies will face “severe sanctions” if they fail to address racist abuse. “We have seen fines of up to ten percent of annual global sales,” he wrote. “For a company like Facebook or YouTube that could be billions.”

Companies such as Adidas, Barclays, Budweiser, Cazoo and the betting app Smarkets are participating in the boycott, as are broadcasters such as BT Sport and talkSPORT.

It’s not the first time social media companies have had a backlash for failing to remove objectionable content. Last year, more than 1,000 groups and companies participated in a boycott in hopes of pressuring Facebook to take stricter steps to stop the spread of hate speech and misinformation on its platform. Attendees included HP, Verizon, Coca-Cola, Diageo, and Ben & Jerry’s.

A Facebook spokesperson said it was against the company’s policy to harass or discriminate against people on Facebook or Instagram.

“We approve of many suggestions from players and have already made progress, including tougher action against those who break our rules in DMs,” the spokesman said in a statement shared with CNBC.

“We recently announced that starting next week we will be rolling out new tools based on consultations with football players and anti-discrimination experts to prevent people from seeing abusive messages from strangers. We are continuing to work with the UK Police on hate speech. And valid ones Respond to legal requests for information that may be essential to an investigation. We will continue to listen to feedback and continue to fight hatred and racism on our platform. “

Twitter said it had removed over 7,000 tweets in the UK since September 12 targeting the football talk violating Twitter rules.

“This is roughly 0.02% of all football talk in the UK and doesn’t reflect the vast majority of people who have lively discussions about football on Twitter,” a spokesman said.

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