English football will boycott social media to tackle online abuse

26 Apr 2021

By: Sport Industry Group

A number of English football’s most prominent organisations - including clubs across the Premier League, the EFL, and Women's Super League - will boycott social media platforms across the bank holiday weekend.

The move, which starts at 3pm on 30th April and ends at 11:59pm on Monday 3rd April, comes in response to ‘ongoing and sustained discriminatory abuse’ received by players ‘and many others connected to football’ across social media platforms.

The FA, Premier League, EFL, FA Women’s Super League, FA Women’s Championship, PFA, LMA, PGMOL, Kick It Out, Women in Football and the Football Supporters’ Association will all unite for the boycott.

In a joint statement, the organisations referred to a letter they collectively sent to the CEOs of social media companies in February 2021 around the issue, which asked for better filtering, quicker blocking and swifter takedowns of offensive posts, as well as improved verification processes to identify those involved in spreading hatred and abuse.

The group also urged the government and the Department for Culture, Media, and Sport to ensure a new Online Safety Bill ‘will bring in strong legislation to make social media companies more accountable for what happens on their platforms.’

The statement read: “While some progress has been made, we reiterate those requests today in an effort to stem the relentless flow of discriminatory messages and ensure that there are real-life consequences for purveyors of online abuse across all platforms.

“Boycott action from football in isolation will, of course, not eradicate the scourge of online discriminatory abuse, but it will demonstrate that the game is willing to take voluntary and proactive steps in this continued fight.”

Edleen John, Director of International Relations, Corporate Affairs and Co-Partner for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, The FA, said: “It’s simply unacceptable that people across English football and society more broadly continue to be subjected to discriminatory abuse online on a daily basis, with no real-world consequences for perpetrators.

“This needs to change quickly, and we continue to urge social media companies to act now to address this. We will not stop talking about this issue and will continue to work with government in ensuring that the Online Safety Bill gives sufficient regulatory and supervisory powers to Ofcom.

“Social media companies need to be held accountable if they continue to fall short of their moral and social responsibilities to address this endemic problem.

“We have recently seen how powerful it can be when everybody is united for the good of the English game. We are calling on organisations and individuals across the game to join us in a temporary boycott of these social media platforms, to show solidarity and unite in the message that English football will not tolerate discrimination in any form.”

Sanjay Bhandari, Kick It Out Chair, added: “Social media is now sadly a regular vessel for toxic abuse. This boycott signifies our collective anger at the damage this causes to the people who play, watch and work in the game.

“By removing ourselves from the platforms, we are making a symbolic gesture to those with power. We need you to act. We need you to create change.

“We need social media companies to make their platforms a hostile environment for trolls rather than for the football family. We need the Government to hold its nerve and keep its promises to regulate.

“The Online Safety Bill could be a game changer and we aim to help make that happen. There should be no space for hate and everyone can play their part. If you watch, work in or love the game, join in.”

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