English football leaders have come together to send a joint letter to Facebook and Twitter, accusing their platforms of becoming “havens of abuse” which need further regulation.
The note, sent directly to Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg, calls for their networks - which in Facebook’s case includes Instagram - to “use the power” of their global systems to bring to an end the online abuse of footballers “for reasons of human decency”.
Manchester United players Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Axel Tuanzebe and Lauren James are among the players who have been targeted recently, as have Chelsea pair Antonio Rudiger and Reece James.
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Facebook yesterday announced that it would act faster to shut down the accounts of offenders, but hours later, Swansea midfielder Yan Dhanda became the latest victim of vile comments following his side’s FA Cup fifth round defeat to Manchester City.
The letter has eight signatures from English football: The Football Association, Premier League, EFL, the women’s professional game, Professional Footballers’ Association, League Managers Association, Professional Game Match Officials Board and anti-discrimination group Kick It Out.
In it, the authorities describe the language often used in comments to players as “debasing, often threatening and illegal”, criticising the social media giants for “inaction” which has “created the belief in the minds of the anonymous perpetrators that they are beyond reach”.
Facebook’s announcement yesterday has been noted in the missive, but it says the actions fall short of what is needed.
“The targets of abuse should be offered basic protections, and we ask that you accept responsibility for preventing abuse from appearing on your platforms and go further than you have promised to do to date”, said the statement.
The combined group has made four requests it would like Twitter and Facebook to prioritise:
  • Messages and posts should be filtered and blocked before being sent or posted if they contain racist or discriminatory material
  • You should operate robust, transparent, and swift measures to take down abusive material if it does get into circulation
  • All users should be subject to an improved verification process that (only if required by law enforcement) allows for accurate identification of the person behind the account. Steps should also be taken to stop a user that has sent abuse previously from re-registering an account
  • Your platforms should actively and expeditiously assist the investigating authorities in identifying the originators of illegal discriminatory material
The letter ends with a request for more meetings with the organisations and the plans they have in place to end discrimination and abuse on social media.
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