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British football targets social media platforms for racist abuse

Three British football clubs said on Thursday they would boycott all social media for a week to protest racism and “heinous” abuse directed at some of their players.

The campaign, which started with Welsh club Swansea City, is the biggest action in what has been a growing movement within British football to pressure social media companies to crack down on the racism, which has led some to call for increased regulation and an end to the anonymity that provides a shield for many abusers.

Swansea City Football Club said in a statement that playing and coaching staff will not post anything to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat, YouTube or TikTok as of 5 p.m. BST (12 p.m. ET) on Thursday. . Swansea City Ladies, the club’s community trust and senior administrative staff, will also take part in the boycott, the statement added.

“This decision was made following conversations between senior club staff, players and management,” Swansea City said. “As a football club, we have seen many of our players abused heinously in the last seven weeks alone, and we believe it is right to take a stand against behavior which is a plague on our sport and society as a whole. “

Swansea players Jamal Lowe, Yan Dhanda and Ben Cabango have all been sent racist abuse online this season.

After Lowe’s Instagram post on Saturday, one user responded with two monkey emojis alongside derogatory messages. When reposting the post on a subsequent Instagram story, Lowe wrote that there were “idiots out there.”

Jamal Lowe of Swansea City in action during the Sky Bet Championship match between Birmingham City and Swansea City at St Andrews on April 2nd 2021 in Birmingham, England.Athena Pictures / Getty Images

Swansea City’s statement says club chief executive Julian Winter sent a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to reiterate the need for companies to do more in the fight against online abuse, which has seen players and managers from a number of teams targeted.

Former Arsenal and France forward Thierry Henry said last month he was pulling back from social media due to racism and harassment on platforms.

Ahead of the Premier League and English Football League matches kick off, most players, officials and staff have been on their knees since June to show their support for the race equality movement.

Hours after Swansea City’s announcement, England Birmingham City, who also play in the Championship League – one below the Premier League – announced in a statement that they were following suit and would not post any content on male and female club channels for a period of seven days. “

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“The Club stands in solidarity with Swansea City Football Club,” he said, adding: “We know how Football Club players and staff use social media both personally and professionally, therefore we are well aware of how these platforms are more advanced. become a hotbed of abusive, offensive and discriminatory content.

“We understand how social media can be used as a force for good, but at the moment we do not recognize this trait in such arenas and we strongly believe that those responsible for these platforms are not doing enough to eradicate the unacceptable abuse and discrimination that they are. housing.”

In Scotland, Rangers Football Club also said in a statement that its players and management would join the boycott to “highlight lingering concerns over the lack of accountability and accountability of social media”.

Twitter and Facebook, which also owns Instagram, have previously said they are working to tackle hate online.

Also on Thursday, Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson ceded control of all of his social media accounts to the Cybersmile Foundation, a non-profit organization that helps fight online bullying and abuse and provides support to victims of online hate campaigns.

Henderson has long been an activist in the fight against increasing levels of abuse and discrimination in gambling and has discussed the issue with the UK government this year.

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