English football to unite in social media boycott to highlight fight against online hate and discrimination

Tom Doyle
·4-min read
 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

English football will unite for a social media boycott to highlight the ongoing fight against online abuse and discrimination of players and those involved in the game.

The Football Association (FA), Premier League, English Football League (EFL), FA Women’s Super League (WSL), FA Women’s Championship, Women In Football, PFA, LMA, PGMOL, Kick It Out and the FSA will carry out a simultaneous boycott of their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts from 3pm on Friday, April 30 until 11:59pm on Monday, May 3.

The unprecedented action will take on added significance given Premier League, EFL, WSL and Women’s Championship clubs will refrain from posting social media content across a full fixture programme.

The parties involved have also called on the UK Government to "ensure its Online Safety Bill will bring in strong legislation to make social media companies more accountable for what happens on their platforms".

A joint statement read: "As a collective, the game recognises the considerable reach and value of social media to our sport. The connectivity and access to supporters who are at the heart of football remains vital.

"However, the boycott shows English football coming together to emphasise that social media companies must do more to eradicate online hate, while highlighting the importance of educating people in the ongoing fight against discrimination."

While the parties involved accept that the boycott will not "eradicate the scourge of online discriminatory abuse", they believe that the action will prove that football is "willing to take voluntary and proactive steps in this continued fight."

The key powerbrokers of the English game acknowledge that "some progress has been made" by social media companies towards meeting the requests outlined in a previous letter sent this February, which included: urging filtering, blocking and swift takedowns of offensive posts; an improved verification process and re-registration prevention, and active assistance for law enforcement agencies to identify and prosecute originators of illegal content.

However, those involved now "reiterate those requests... in an effort to stem the relentless flow of discriminatory messages and ensure that there are real-life consequences for purveyors of online abuse across all platforms."

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said: “Racist behaviour of any form is unacceptable and the appalling abuse we are seeing players receive on social media platforms cannot be allowed to continue.

“The Premier League and our clubs stand alongside football in staging this boycott to highlight the urgent need for social media companies to do more in eliminating racial hatred. We will not stop challenging social media companies and want to see significant improvements in their policies and processes to tackle online discriminatory abuse on their platforms."

Edleen John, The FA’s Director of International Relations, Corporate Affairs and Co-Partner for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, said: “We will not stop talking about this issue and will continue to work with government in ensuring that the Online Safety Bill gives sufficient regulatory and supervisory powers to Ofcom. Social media companies need to be held accountable if they continue to fall short of their moral and social responsibilities to address this endemic problem.

“We have recently seen how powerful it can be when everybody is united for the good of the English game. We are calling on organisations and individuals across the game to join us in a temporary boycott of these social media platforms, to show solidarity and unite in the message that English football will not tolerate discrimination in any form.”

Sanjay Bhandari, Kick It Out Chair, said: “Social media is now sadly a regular vessel for toxic abuse. This boycott signifies our collective anger at the damage this causes to the people who play, watch and work in the game. By removing ourselves from the platforms, we are making a symbolic gesture to those with power. We need you to act. We need you to create change.

“We need social media companies to make their platforms a hostile environment for trolls rather than for the football family. We need the Government to hold its nerve and keep its promises to regulate. The Online Safety Bill could be a game changer and we aim to help make that happen. There should be no space for hate and everyone can play their part. If you watch, work in or love the game, join in.”

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