February 11 – English football bodies have joined forces to send an open letter to Facebook and Twitter demanding action amid increased levels of abuse aimed at high-profile players and officials on social media.
The Premier League, Football Association, English Football League, the entire women’s game and the players’ union have all co-signed the letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook founder, chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerburg, asking them “for reasons of basic human decency”.
“The language used is debasing, often threatening and illegal. It causes distress to the recipients and the vast majority of people who abhor racism, sexism and discrimination of any kind,” the letter says amid growing concern over the extent to which online abuse is poisoning the game.
“We have had many meetings with your executives over the years but the reality is your platforms remain havens for abuse.
“Your inaction has created the belief in the minds of the anonymous perpetrators that they are beyond reach. The relentless flow of racist and discriminatory messages feeds on itself: the more it is tolerated by Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, platforms with billions of users, the more it becomes normal, accepted behaviour.”
The letter urges Facebook and Twitter to ensure no user is “hounded off” their platforms because of their gender or the colour of their skin.
It calls on the platforms to put in place mechanisms which filter or block posts containing racist or discriminatory material.
“Players, match officials, managers and coaches of any origin and background and at any level of football should be able to participate in the game without having to endure illegal abuse. We, the leaders of the game in English football, will do everything we can to protect them, but we cannot succeed until you change the ability of offenders to remain anonymous.”
The letter came just as Facebook-owned Instagram announced new measures, including the removal of accounts.
Facebook Content Policy Manager Fadzai Madzingira, who works across Instagram and Facebook, says the accounts of those found to have repeatedly sent abusive private messages on Instagram will be disabled.
Madzingira told the BBC: “I’m horrified at the type of abuse that people, especially these footballers, have to deal with on the basis of who they are, whether it’s their race or their religion or their gender, and as a company, we’re disappointed to see that sort of behaviour that plays out offline also playing out on our platform.
“It’s why we’re making the announcements today about taking tougher measures to go after accounts that are violating our community standards and our goals within Instagram direct messages.”
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