Thierry Henry says he will only return to social media “when it’s safe” after highlighting the links between online abuse, mental health issues and suicide.
Former Arsenal and Barcelona striker Henry disabled all of his accounts on Saturday, describing current levels of racism and bullying on online platforms as “too toxic to ignore”.
The 43-year-old’s action – announced in on a statement on Friday – comes during a spate of hate posts directed at footballers, himself included.
“Recently it happened to me off social media, it happened on social media. But recently it’s been coming quite a lot, players getting abused,” he told Good Morning Britain.
“I just think that it (social media) is not a safe place at the minute.
“People are getting racially abused but, when you see the statement, I talk also about bullying, harassment that can cause mental issues, people commit suicide because of it.
“It’s very difficult to eradicate everything but can it be safer? We all know that it is a great tool but a lot of people are using it as a weapon. Why? Because they can hide behind fake accounts.
“I know that a little portion of the world are using it as a weapon. ‘Can it be safer?’ is all I am asking. I will be back on it, when it’s safe.”
Henry, who last month left his managerial role at Montreal Impact, had 2.3million followers on Twitter and a further 2.7million on Instagram.
Instagram, who are owned by Facebook, took action on 6.6million pieces of hate speech between October and December last year.
Henry remains unhappy with the response of social media companies and compared the treatment of abusive posts with ones which infringe copyright law, while calling for greater regulation and accountability.
His suggestions for banning anonymous accounts included being required to enter a National Insurance or passport number to sign up.
“Basically I had enough of what I heard as an answer all the time,” he said.
“Social media always say that ‘we are investigating it, we are trying to do stuff to eradicate it’ but enough is enough because I found out that if you want to upload a video on social media, they will block it, you can’t even send it.
“We all know why: because of the copyright, because money is involved, so it is different.
“Now for that they can create algorithms to make sure that you don’t do it. They will stop you there, they will act strongly there.
“I know people will tell me ‘freedom of speech’ and ‘a word can be used in different ways’.
“But listen, you cannot go in a cinema and shout whatever you want, you can’t shout whatever you want in the street, you can’t shout whatever you want at an airport. You can’t cross the line. All I want is accountability. We need to find out who those people are.”
Back in July, Henry took the knee for eight minutes and 46 seconds ahead of Montreal’s MLS game with New England Revolution in a stand against racism following the death of George Floyd.
The World Cup winner believes talk of taking a knee is beginning to overshadow the purpose of doing so.
“First and foremost, the kneeling goes back from a long time ago and it was based on peace; peaceful approach and hope,” he said.
“But the debate is not about whether we should kneel or stand. It is about the cause and what’s happening next. We want answers, we want action.”
Gareth Bale says he would be prepared to join a social media boycott to tackle online abuse.
“If everyone did it at once, not just one or two people, I would,” said Tottenham and Wales forward Bale.
“If it was a campaign where a lot of influential people in sport and other forms of life on social media to make a statement then I think it could help. If that was the case I’m all for that.”
Bale, speaking ahead of Wales’ World Cup qualifier against the Czech Republic on Tuesday, addressed the issue of racism after international team-mates Ben Cabango and Rabbi Matondo were targeted on social media platforms after Saturday’s friendly victory over Mexico.
“It was not nice to wake up on Sunday to hear these things,” Bale said.
“Ben, Rabbi and anyone else knows we are here to talk to them and support them if they need it.
“Something needs to happen in terms of the social media companies, whether it is people getting an account need to put a passport in.
“I think that will stop people saying things because then you will be able to trace them down and hold them accountable.”