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Women in Football join social media boycott to tackle online hate

24 April 2021

Women in Football join social media boycott to tackle online hate

Football unites to tackle online hate

Women in Football will join The FA, Premier League, EFL, FA Women’s Super League, FA Women’s Championship, PFA, LMA, PGMOL, Kick It Out and the FSA in uniting for a social media boycott from 15.00 on Friday 30 April to 23.59 on Monday 3 May. The boycott is in response to the ongoing and sustained discriminatory abuse on grounds of race, gender and other characteristics, 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.

Jane Purdon, CEO of Women in Football, said: "Women working across the game - as players, as coaches, as officials, in the media - can face horrendous levels of discriminatory abuse with real consequences for their wellbeing. Social media plays a critical role in civil society. It is vital that all can contribute to the conversations on social media with confidence, and in safety.

"Women in Football stands shoulder to shoulder with all people who have been affected by abuse on social media. We are united with the rest of football in calling for action to eliminate hatred online."

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.

As Edleen John, The FA’s Director of International Relations, Corporate Affairs and Co-Partner for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion 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. 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.” 

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.

As Premier League Chief Executive, Richard Masters stated: “We will not stop challenging social media companies and want to see significant improvements in their policies and processes to tackle online discriminatory abuse on their platforms. Football is a diverse sport, which brings together communities and cultures from all backgrounds and this diversity makes the competition stronger.”

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 round table earlier this week.

Trevor Birch, Chief Executive of the EFL said: “EFL clubs have expressed a clear desire to take a united stand against abhorrent racist, discriminatory, and threatening abuse on social media platforms which we fully support alongside the rest of the football family.

“The boycott is only part of the work being undertaken in this area but further highlights the need for social media companies to take additional responsibility for the inappropriate and unwelcome behaviour that appears on their platforms.

Simone Pound, Director of EDI at the PFA said: "Social media channels represent an extension of the working environment for professional footballers, and as the players' union, we are committed to finding solutions that better protect our membership and the wider community from online abuse.

"In 2021, with a collective voice, we can hold social media companies to account and send a powerful message to a global audience – abusive behaviour is unacceptable."

Richard Bevan, Chief Executive at the LMA said: “The LMA fully supports the social media boycott across the professional game. A unified silence will send a loud and powerful message to those that perpetrate online abuse that their actions will no longer be tolerated, and to the social media companies that they have a responsibility to do everything in their power to eradicate online hate.

Sanjay Bhandari, Kick It Out Chair, said: “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. 

“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.”

Kevin Miles, Chief Executive of the Football Supporters' Association said: “The Football Supporters' Association is fully behind the game's efforts to stamp out online hate and discrimination and will join next weekend's social media boycott. Much media attention has rightly focused on the vile abuse aimed at players, managers and journalists in the men's and women's game and we see that aimed at fans groups too. It has to stop. As fans we stand with players, managers, referees and all in the game in calling for the social media companies to step up."

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