Thierry Henry sees progress in fight against online abuse but wants more done

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Thierry Henry believes there is a “movement coming” to stop online abuse, but has criticised what he claims is an unwillingness from social media platforms to eradicate it.

Wilfried Zaha became the latest player to receive racist hate on Instagram after Crystal Palace’s 2-0 win at Manchester City on Saturday.

Henry, who left social media in protest earlier this year, has teamed up with sportswear brand PUMA and online platform Game of Our Lives Foundation on a campaign focused on fighting for racial justice, gender equality, LGBTQI+ rights and sustainability.

The former Arsenal and France forward says things are heading in the right direction, pointing to the social media blackout that occurred in April, but questioned the social media platforms’ priorities.

“A lot of stuff is being raised, way more than in my time. It can be more,” he said at the launch of the campaign at Web Summit in Lisbon.

“The way the football world is moving, I am not complaining. The game is moving together, this is why we had the boycott that weekend.

“The FA was very responsive and the football world all came together. Was it enough? I don’t think it was strong enough but I can see a movement coming, people are talking about it, they are raising the problem, players are talking about it and asking for it to stop.

“I don’t think it’s bad, it could be better. But before we were not even talking about it. Now people want to change.

Wilfried Zaha received abuse after Crystal Palace's win at Manchester City
Wilfried Zaha received abuse after Crystal Palace’s win at Manchester City (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

“For me, it is an unwillingness. When they (social media platforms) want to do something about something they do it.

“If you try to put a video that you don’t have the rights for you can’t do that. They have an algorithm and a way to stop it if they need to stop something that impacts their profits.

“When it doesn’t then you have to report it for each message, that’s if they do answer to it.

“Being kind, taking care of others, being a human doesn’t generate money, we know it. Wilfried Zaha is the latest one. At the end of the day they are going to have to come up with some answers.”

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The Government has pledged to bring in sweeping reforms of legislation for online hate, which could see offenders jailed for two years.

“That is a massive start,” Henry added. “If you find yourself in a situation like that on the street you will be arrested by the police.

“You cannot do it again, but it seems like you can do whatever you want on those platforms, we saw it again with Wilfried Zaha at the weekend, even when you are good it happens. For me it is a massive positive.”

A Facebook statement read: “No one should have to experience racist abuse anywhere and we don’t want it on our platforms.

“We remove hateful content as soon as we find it and respond quickly to valid legal requests to help with police investigations.

“But we also want to help protect people from having to see this abuse in the first place. That’s why we’ve developed safety features to filter out offensive comments and DMs and we’re working closely with football bodies to help players turn these tools on.

“No one thing will fix this challenge overnight but we’re proud to be a part of the Online Hate Working Group with the football community, law enforcement, and NGOs to tackle this issue and help keep our community safe from abuse.”

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