LONDON – The world’s largest social media platforms are boycotted by UK sports teams, athletes and major sports bodies over a lack of action on online abuse.
Facebook, Instagram and Twitter will be bypassed from 3:00 p.m. London time Friday to 11:59 p.m. Monday.
The boycott – embraced by sports like soccer, rugby and cricket – comes as America’s tech giants continue to face criticism for failing to remove racist and sexist abuses posted on their platforms.
Facebook, owner of Instagram, and Twitter have said racism and other forms of abuse have no place on their platforms.
Anti-discrimination organizations like Kick It Out and Show Racism the Red Card are implicated in the boycott, as are sports governing bodies.
Kick It Out said in September that there was a 42% increase in reports of discrimination in professional football last season, with the number of incidents rising from 313 to 446.
Former World Cup winner and Arsenal record holder Thierry Henry, who withdrew from social media last month, hailed the boycott as a “start” in the fight against racism and discrimination.
“(What) is the English football world doing on the minute and what’s going to happen on the weekend, people ask me, ‘Is that enough on the weekend?'”, A- he told CNN this week. “And I’m like, ‘This is a start.’ You know, you can’t be too greedy for having nothing of that. It’s a beginning.”
Watford Football Club captain Troy Deeney told the BBC on Friday that many athletes receive abusive messages online on a daily basis, while some people experience them on an hourly basis.
On Friday morning Alex Scott, who played for Arsenal and England before going into broadcasting, urged members of the public to get involved. “Join us and turn off too, as we collectively demand change,” she wrote on Twitter.
Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said in a statement: “Racist behavior in any form is unacceptable and the appalling abuse that we see players receiving on social media platforms cannot continue. . “
He added: “The Premier League and our clubs stand with football in organizing this boycott to underscore the urgent need for social media companies to do more to eradicate racial hatred. We will not stop challenging social media companies and want to see significant improvements in their policies and processes to tackle discriminatory abuse online on their platforms. “
Fines of up to 10% of annual worldwide turnover
Ahead of the boycott, Manchester United wrote on Twitter: “Since September 2019 there has been a 350% increase in online abuse directed against our players. We need change. Elsewhere, Everton Football Club said via Twitter: “Enough is enough” and used the hashtags “#StopOnlineAbuse” and “NoRoomForRacism”.
British Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden wrote in UK newspapers this week that social media companies would face “stiff penalties” if they fail to suppress racist abuse. “We could see fines of up to ten percent of global annual turnover,” he wrote. “For a business like Facebook or YouTube, that could add up to billions.”
Companies such as Adidas, Barclays, Budweiser, Cazoo and the betting app Smarkets are participating in the boycott, as are broadcasters such as BT Sport and talkSPORT.
This isn’t the first time social media companies have faced a backlash for not removing offensive content. Last year, more than 1,000 groups and businesses took part in a boycott, hoping to pressure Facebook to take tougher measures to stop the spread of hate speech and misinformation about it. platform. Participants included HP, Verizon, Coca-Cola, Diageo and Ben & Jerry’s.
A Facebook spokesperson said it was against company policies to harass or discriminate against people on Facebook or Instagram.
“We agree and have already made progress on many player suggestions, including taking tougher action against people who break our rules in DMs,” the spokesperson said in a statement shared with CNBC. .
“We also recently announced that starting next week, we will be providing new tools, based on consultations with footballers and anti-discrimination experts, to help prevent people from seeing abusive messages. from strangers. We continue to work with UK police on hate speech and respond to legal requests for information, which can be essential for investigations. We will continue to listen to comments and fight hate and racism on our platform. “
Twitter said it has deleted more than 7,000 UK tweets since September 12 that targeted the football conversation with Twitter rule violations.
“This represents around 0.02 percent of the overall UK football conversation and does not reflect the vast majority of people who engage in heated football discussions on Twitter,” a spokesperson said. .