Social media boycott: PFA brands Twitter’s response to abusive posts aimed at footballers ‘unacceptable’

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

Twitter’s response to abusive posts directed towards footballers has been “absolutely unacceptable” ahead of this weekend’s social media boycott, according to the Professional Footballers’ Association.

English football’s boycott of social media channels begins on Friday afternoon as players, clubs and governing bodies - and supported by other sports, broadcasters and media - have joined forces to send a message that online abuse will not be tolerated.

But a PFA investigation has shown that 31 out of 56 racist and discriminatory tweets posted during Project Restart remain live on the social media site. The PFA says it notified Twitter of the posts in November last year.

The PFA says it also gave Twitter a list of 18 tweets posted before Project Restart, with 15 of those still live in April.

PFA Director of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Simone Pound said: “This situation is absolutely unacceptable.

“While the platforms repeatedly stress that they are doing all they can to combat online abuse, extreme racist abuse remains visible on Twitter five months after we provided them with clear evidence of abusive content.

“At the time of our last online abuse study, we sent the account details and relevant abuse directly to Twitter, and still there is inaction on horrific hate. Words are not enough.

“For people to believe that social networks are taking this issue seriously, we need to see them addressing the issue and finding solutions.”

Twitter say they have now taken action on a number of tweets and are continuing to investigate the others.

A Twitter spokesperson said in response to the study: “Racist behaviour, abuse and harassment have absolutely no place on our service and alongside our partners in football, we condemn racism in all its forms.

“We are resolute in our commitment to ensure the football conversation on our service is safe for fans, players and everyone involved in the game.

“Since the season started on September 12th, there have been over 30m Tweets from people in the UK about football. In that time we have removed over 7,000 Tweets in the UK that were targeting the football conversation with violations of the Twitter Rules.

AFP via Getty Images
AFP via Getty Images

“This represents roughly 0.02 per cent of the overall football conversation in the UK and does not reflect the vast majority of people who engage in vibrant discussions about football on Twitter.

“We have worked to improve our proactive measures, where now 90 per cent of the abuse targeting players is removed without the need for a user report. We’ve also provided expedited reporting channels to our football partners to ensure any potentially violative content is reviewed and actioned swiftly.

“Racism is a deep societal and complex issue and everyone has a role to play. We are committed to doing our part and continue to work closely with valued partners in football, government and police, along with the working group convened by Kick It Out to identify ways to tackle this issue collectively - both online and away from social media.”

Additional reporting by PA.

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