UEFA and FIFA join four-day social media blackout protesting online racist abuse

By Andrew Warshaw

April 30 – English football’s boycott of social media in protest against the current scourge of online racist abuse has been joined by FIFA and UEFA as well as a number of other sports.

The unprecedented four-day boycott begins today in response to concerns that platforms like Twitter and Facebook, which also owns Instagram, aren’t doing enough to combat anonymous abuse of a raft of players from the Premier League downwards.

“FIFA supports the initiative from English football to call out discriminatory and other offensive abuse on social media,” world football’s governing body said in a statement. “This has no place in football or society more generally and we strongly condemn it.

“We believe that authorities and social media companies should take real and effective steps to put an end to these abhorrent practices because it’s getting worse all the time and something needs to be done – and done quickly – to put a stop to it.”

Broadcasters who normally show goal clips on social media are also taking part in the boycott which means UEFA won’t be posting about the Women’s Champions League semi-finals taking place on Sunday.

UEFA said it would stay silent across its platforms, starting at 1500 BST (1600 CEST) today.

Last week UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin, at his organisation’s annual congress, issued a ferocious rebuke against “ these cowards who hide behind their anonymity to spew out their noxious ideologies.”

“Allowing a culture of hatred to grow with impunity is dangerous, very dangerous, not only for football, but for society as a whole,” he declared.

Ahead of the boycott, Manchester United published statistics highlighting the scale of the problem.

United has conducted its own in-depth review of online activity from September 2019 to February 2021 checking for abusive words being used against players’ names or account handles and covered racist, homophobic and abusive comments.

The analysis found that since September 2019, there has been a staggering 350% increase in abuse directed towards the club’s players of which  86% were racist.

Richard Arnold, United’s Group Managing Director, commented: “We have been actively campaigning against discrimination for some time through our All Red All Equal initiative. The level of support we have received for this work from our fans has been hugely encouraging but these figures show that despite that, the level of abuse our players and fans receive is on the up.”

In other sports the European Rugby League confederation joined institutional partners the RFL, Super League and the Rugby League World Cup 2021 in joining the blackout.

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