FA would consider 'collective' social media boycott in wake of online abuse incidents in football

The Football Association would consider a social media boycott if it would “achieve the desired effect in leading to tangible change” following a spate of online abuse.

Birmingham City, Swansea City and Rangers have stepped away from their social media channels for a period of seven days in the wake of recent incidents.

Meanwhile, Tottenham condemned “abhorrent” online racist abuse sent to Heung-Min Son following their 3-1 home defeat to Manchester United on Sunday.

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The FA said they “fully support” any club or player taking a stand, while they are also in regular dialogue with other English football authorities regarding whether a collective boycott would be the best course of action.

An FA spokesperson said: “The FA, alongside other English football authorities, continues to proactively challenge online discriminatory abuse directed towards participants in English football, urging social media companies to do more so there are real-world consequences for perpetrators.


“We recognise that clubs and individuals may wish to use their platforms to tackle online hate in different ways, whether that is a boycott of social media, or engaging their followers in how they can support with attempting to reduce hate speech.

“We fully support any club or player that wishes to take a stand against any form of discrimination in a respectful manner, including the boycott of social media platforms.

“Creating a game that is free from discrimination remains a core priority for our organisation and we will continue to use our platforms to openly challenge online hate. We are in regular dialogue with other English football authorities and, if it is felt collectively that a boycott of social media platforms would achieve the desired effect in leading to tangible change, it is something we would consider.

Another matchday and more abhorrent racial abuse suffered by one of our players. This has again been reported to the platforms and we shall now undertake a full review alongside the Premier League to determine the most effective action moving forward.

We stand with you, Sonny. pic.twitter.com/fNBpSykJJo

“We also welcome the government’s proposals for the Online Safety Bill later this year which they have promised will ensure that social media companies are held to account more stringently and recognise their duty of care to protect users.”

Last month, the FA called on social media platforms to introduce identification in a bid to deter online hate.

“I do think there should be some way in which users are identified,” Mark Bullingham, the FA’s chief executive, told Sky Sports News.

“At the moment, they are able to completely avoid any personal responsibility and we think that they have to face up for what they’re doing, in a small number of cases, on social media.

“We’ve been very clear that social media platforms, in this type of abuse, and racist abuse, should be doing more. They should take responsibility; they are the publishers and have the technology (to prevent it). I do think there should be some way that users are identified. They can avoid personal responsibility at the moment.”

‘Boycott should just to be one part of online hate fight’

Kick It Out CEO Tony Burnett has welcomed the boycotts of social media from a number of clubs and players as a powerful statement but feels it needs to be just one initiative in the big fight against online hate.

“Even though football is a huge sport in countries like our own, we’ve got to understand this in a global context and the size and scale of social media organisations,” Burnett told Sky Sports News.

“The importance of boycotts is that they send messages about what is acceptable and what is not and that is what we are keen to support – that players and human beings with good values don’t want to see this and be part of this.

“Does it work in terms of incentivising people like Mark Zuckerberg to change policy and procedure? I’m not sure.

“Which is why a lot of activities, aligned to boycotts are just as important – such as the work Kick It Out is doing with the online hate working group, the work the government is doing around legislation as well as the societal aspect where we are trying to create a society where people don’t think it is ok to do this stuff.”

Alli, Son and Walker’s agency boycott social media

On Friday, CAA Base – the agency that represents Son, as well as Dele Alli, Kyle Walker and a host of other top players – started a social media boycott in protest against online hate.

They said in a statement: “CAA Base has chosen to follow the lead of clubs and take a company-wide stance in the battle against abuse and discrimination of all forms on social media.

  • Swansea players and staff to boycott social media
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“From 5pm today (Friday) we will not post any content on our official social media channels for seven days and have invited our staff and clients to do the same. #EnoughIsEnough.”

Also on the books at CAA Base are Inter Milan’s Ashley Young, who is expected to support the boycott, Manchester United midfielder Fred and Liverpool defender Ben Davies.

From 5pm today i will not post any content on my official social media channels for seven days and have invited our staff.
#EnoughIsEnough pic.twitter.com/bK4pK0hA68

The company, formerly known as Base Soccer before they were bought by American company Creative Artist Agency, decided to follow the lead of several clubs following an upsurge of racist, sexist and other discriminatory and abusive messaging towards athletes in recent weeks and months.

Swansea made the decision after the latest incident occurred against Jamal Lowe, who was racially abused on Instagram after the clash with Birmingham City.

The club’s chief executive Julian Winter sent a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook’s founder, chairman and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, to reiterate the club’s stance and desire to see social media companies introduce more stringent policing and punishments.

Facebook, which owns Instagram, has repeatedly said it does not allow attacks on people based on protected characteristics such as race, religion, nationality, or sexual orientation.

A Facebook spokesperson said: “We don’t want discriminatory abuse on Instagram or Facebook.

“We share the goal of tackling it and want to hold people who share it accountable. We do this by taking action on content and accounts that break our rules and cooperating with law enforcement when we receive a valid legal request.

“We also recently announced that we’ll take tougher action when we become aware of people breaking our rules in DMs and we have built tools to help protect people, including the ability to never receive a DM from someone you don’t follow.

“This work is ongoing and we are committed to doing more. We also know these problems are bigger than us, so are working with the industry, government and others to collectively drive societal change through action and education.”

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Kick It Out reporting racism

Online Reporting Form | Kick It Out

Kick It Out is football’s equality and inclusion organisation – working throughout the football, educational and community sectors to challenge discrimination, encourage inclusive practices and campaign for positive change.


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