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Social media boycott: Football clubs, players & sporting bodies begin protest

BBC Technology 30 Apr 2021 08:22

Last updated on .From the section Sport

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Football clubs, players, athletes and a number of sporting bodies have begun a four-day boycott of social media in an attempt to tackle abuse and discrimination on their platforms.

It began at 15:00 BST on Friday and will end on Monday at at 23:59 BST.

The "show of solidarity against online abuse" hopes to encourage companies to take a stronger stance against racist and sexist abuse by users.

Rugby union, cricket and rugby league have also joined the protest.

The Premier League released a statement prior to the four-day silence, saying it would not stop challenging companies "until discriminatory online abuse is removed from our game and wider society".

"We know that a boycott alone will not eradicate this, which is why we will continue to take proactive steps to call for change," the statement continued.

A number players posted a statement shortly before the protest began, while football clubs changed their Twitter feed icons to a blacked-out version of their logo.

"I really hope main platforms make it a priority to eradicate online abuse from their system. It's already a problem in society, let's do more to stop it online as well."

Who is taking part?

  • Football: Clubs from the Premier League, English Football League, Women's Super League, Scottish Professional Football League and Scottish women's football; governing bodies including the Football Association, Scottish FA, Football Association of Wales and Irish Football Association; European governing body Uefa; a number of other football organisations
  • Cricket: The England and Wales Cricket Board, first-class counties, women's regional teams and the Professional Cricketers' Association
  • Netball: The Superleague, England Netball, Netball Players Association
  • Rugby union: England Rugby, Scottish Rugby, Welsh Rugby, France Rugby, Premiership Rugby, clubs and the Rugby Players' Association
  • Rugby league: The Rugby Football League, Super League Europe, Rugby League World Cup 2021 and the Rugby League Players' Association
  • Corporate bodies: Premier League and Women's Super League sponsor Barclays, England sponsor Nationwide, Adidas; broadcasters Sky Sports, BT Sport and Talksport
  • Formula 1: All drivers

The Duke of Cambridge, who is president of the FA, has also joined, alongside seven-time Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton and Williams driver George Russell.

While individual drivers have joined, it is understood Formula 1 is not taking part as it does not experience the same abuse issues on its social media.

"We will continue to work hard, and publicly, to tackle social media abuse and to expose and challenge racism. And we'll continue to report extensively on the impact of social media hate - and this weekend's boycott - across our platforms," the corporation added.

Crystal Palace winger Andros Townsend told BBC Sport players were "starting to fight back", adding the boycott would "send a warning to these companies that if you don't start regulating your platforms, it's going to be an indefinite blackout".

"For a long time now we've all been talking about the impact of social media on the younger generation, as well as mental health," he said.

Deeney added that he receives abuse on a daily basis, which is also aimed at his partner and children.

Former West Ham, Sunderland and QPR defender Anton Ferdinand told BBC Radio 5 Live it was "sad" the fight against online abuse had got to this point, but that football was "taking no more of it".

"Some people don't get out of the slump they're in after being abused on social media, and that can lead to people harming themselves.

Ferdinand also called on the UK government to do more.

"When we're talking about pound notes and money involved, that's when people seem to act properly, and seem to act in the right way.

"We need to protect young kids, young adults as well. And growing up with all this social media going on, it needs to be things put in place for these trolls and keyboard warriors to take responsibility for their actions."

But players across all sports continue to be subjected to racist abuse, with some clubs contacting police over the level of aggression.

The PFA reported them to the platform but 31 of them are still visible, which the organisation described as "absolutely unacceptable".

It found 86% of those posts were racist, while 8% were homophobic or transphobic.

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footballKalvin PhillipsBBCAndros TownsendTwitter
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