Sir Lewis Hamilton throws his support behind upcoming social media blackout

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Philip Duncan, PA F1 Correspondent
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Sir Lewis Hamilton says he is ready to join this weekend’s social media blackout – and revealed he has been the target of abuse.

Football organisations in England will boycott social media from 3pm on Friday for three days in a united front against online hate and discrimination.

England Rugby will also take part, while the Lawn Tennis Association has confirmed its participation too, along with other clubs and organisations.

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It is understood that F1 bosses discussed the topic with all 10 teams ahead of this weekend’s Portuguese Grand Prix and there are no plans to join the boycott.

But seven-time world champion Hamilton, the sport’s biggest figure, said: “I am fully supportive of the initiative and if me doing it helps put pressure on those platforms in order to help fight against it then, for sure, I am happy to do so.

“I am really proud to hear there are so many organisations getting involved. I am not sure why Formula One is not a part of that. But I heard Sky are for example, and as I said, I probably will follow it and support it this weekend.”

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Hamilton, who has 22million followers on Instagram and more than six million on Twitter, is F1’s sole black driver.

He added: “I was subjected to abuse a long time ago at a time when I was younger and reading the comments and trying to engage with people.

“There was a period of time where I had to understand you cannot read every comment that is on there and you cannot take it personally. If you let those things get to you, it can really ruin your day.

Lewis Hamilton supports the boycott
Lewis Hamilton supports the boycott (David Davies/PA)

“I stepped back from it and I generally don’t go searching for that stuff, or for validation. I know I have got amazing support from many fans that follow me and I am grateful for the support I do get.

“For me it is clear that racism continues to be an issue and social media platforms need to do more in order to combat this. There are algorithms and they are able to see things and take steps to create an anti-racist society and that is what we have got to be pushing towards.”

Hamilton’s compatriot George Russell confirmed he will also take part in the boycott.

Explaining his position in a video posted to Twitter, the Williams driver said: “I will be supporting the social media blackout.

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“I thought it was important to do so because there is far too much online abuse, hatred, negativity and racism that is just undeserved and I feel like it is our duties to raise as much awareness as possible, not just within sport but all walks of life.

“It doesn’t matter how old or young you are, or what background you are from, but just to spread positivity and to be nice to one another.

“I feel strongly about this and I feel it is my duty to be a part of this cause. Hopefully we can all make a change.”

A spokesperson for the sport said: “F1 is wholly committed to combatting any form of discrimination, online or otherwise.

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“We support the actions of the Premier League and other sporting bodies and athletes in highlighting that more must be done to eradicate online abuse that they are receiving directly.

“We continue to work with all platforms and our own audiences to promote respect and positive values and put a stop to racism.”

Hamilton, 36, heads into the third round of the season leading Max Verstappen by a single point in the standings following the Red Bull driver’s victory in Imola earlier this month.