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English football announces social media boycott

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Posted 28th April 2021

Yorkshire Sport Foundation is joining leading football organisations, including The FA and Kick It Out, in a social media boycott this weekend.

We will not be posting on social media between 3pm Friday and 11.59pm Monday, in response to the ongoing and sustained discriminatory abuse received online by players and many others connected to football. Yorkshire Sport Foundation and other Sport England-funded organisations will be supporting the boycott and #TakeAStand in the fight against discrimination.

Kick It Out, The FA, Premier League, EFL, FA Women’s Super League, FA Women’s Championship, PFA, LMA, PGMOL and the FSA will unite in response to the ongoing and sustained discriminatory abuse received online by players and many others connected to football.

This has been scheduled to take place across a full fixture programme in the men’s and women’s professional game and will see clubs across the Premier League, EFL, WSL and Women’s Championship switch off their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.

As a collective, the game recognises the considerable reach and value of social media to our sport. The connectivity and access to supporters who are at the heart of football remains vital.

However, the boycott shows English football coming together to emphasise that social media companies must do more to eradicate online hate, while highlighting the importance of educating people in the ongoing fight against discrimination.

A spokesperson said: “In a letter of February 2021, English football outlined its requests of social media companies, urging filtering, blocking and swift takedowns of offensive posts, an improved verification process and re-registration prevention, plus active assistance for law enforcement agencies to identify and prosecute originators of illegal content. 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.

“Finally, while football takes a stand, we urge the UK Government to ensure its Online Safety Bill will bring in strong legislation to make social media companies more accountable for what happens on their platforms, as discussed at the DCMS Online Abuse roundtable earlier this week.

Sanjay Bhandari, Kick It Out Chair, says: “Social media is now sadly a regular vessel for toxic abuse. Hate has become depressingly normalised. This boycott signifies our collective anger at the damage this causes to the people who play, watch and work in the game. Football is standing in unity with the people who receive and witness these vicious torrents of hate. 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 want social media companies to do more and to act faster. We need them 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. We can all take a stand.”

Find out more at Kick it out.

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