Social media boycott brings a unified stand against discrimination in England

Stakeholders across English football and other sports will begin an 81-hour boycott of social media this afternoon (30 April), with the ambition to demand more from companies such as Facebook and Twitter to increase their efforts to tackle online abuse that is being sent or seen.

The leading football organisations including The Premier League, The English Football Association, English Football League and anti-discrimination group Kick It Out are calling on the social media giants to put in place a series of measures that will help prevent abuse, so those guilty of doing so can be held more accountable.

The Fare network will be joining the boycott. Piara Powar, executive director of Fare, said: “This boycott is a powerful act of unity that we hope can contribute to pressurizing the platforms to step up and do more to stop the perpetrators of hate speech.

“We know the Artificial Intelligence exists to prevent and identify discrimination, to take down posts immediately, to warn users even as they type posts, the platforms should be using it. At the moment each company seems to be trying to remove less content so as not to harm their growth and engagement.”

UEFA and FIFA have also backed the campaign. Alexander Ceferin of UEFA said yesterday: “Allowing a culture of hatred to grow with impunity is dangerous, very dangerous, not only for football but for society as a whole. We’ve had enough of these cowards who hide behind their anonymity to spew out their noxious ideologies.

Since it was first announced last week by leading clubs and authorities it has gathered traction with support from organisations across wider sport and European clubs and organisations. The English Cricket Board, the Lawn Tennis Association and British Cycling have all joined the call and stars including Lewis Hamilton, have given their support.

Sports media organisations such as Sky Sports and sport sections of publications such as The Guardian and the Evening Standard are also joining the campaign.

One of the measures the campaign hopes to see brought forward as a result of this weekend’s action is a requirement for social media giants to show a warning if a user writes an abusive message, and to ask them to enter personal data if they wish to send it.

The organisations behind this weekend’s stance want social media companies to have to submit a detailed quarterly report outlining ways in which they are making strides to cut out abuse online.

The leading social media companies will also be urged to do more in three key areas:

• Put stronger preventative and takedown measures in place to stop discriminatory abuse being sent or seen.

• Be accountable for safety on platforms and protect users by implementing effective verification.

• Ensure real-life consequences for online discriminatory abuse.

On Friday morning, there were a number of organisations who kicked the campaign off at 9am with the message that more must be done, saying: “Social media companies must do more to #StopOnlineAbuse. Join us and switch off too, as we collectively demand change.”

At 2.55pm, sporting organisations will unite in this and post the following message: “We want to demonstrate our collective anger at the constant abuse on social media received by footballers and people in the game, as well as others across the world, which goes without any real-world consequences for perpetrators.

“We know that a boycott alone will not eradicate the scourge of online discriminatory abuse, which is why we will continue to take proactive steps to call for change. We will not stop challenging social media companies until we see enough progress.”

There is also mounting pressure on the government to look at legislation around discrimination and the companies leading the campaign have challenged the government to asks them to ensure its forthcoming online safety bill will make social media companies more accountable.

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