Pressure remains on social media companies to address abuse on their platforms

Wednesday 12 May 2021

Led by English football, over the weekend of Friday 30 April to Monday 3 May, sport united across the world to call on social media companies to do more to stop online abuse. Now, the pressure is on social media companies to respond to the change we want to see on their platforms.

The combined following of the accounts, which we know joined the social media boycott and supported our calls for change, is estimated at over 1.7 billion, showing our requests to social media were shared far and wide across the UK and overseas. 

The FA, Kick It Out, Premier League, EFL, FA Women’s Super League, FA Women’s Championship, PFA, LMA, PGMOL, the FSA and Women In Football, led the initial boycott plans. Soon gathering momentum, a range of other sports, organisations and individuals swiftly followed suit. 

Alongside football, clubs and governing bodies of other sports across the UK, including rugby, cricket, tennis, cycling, horseracing, hockey and netball all took part, as well as brands, broadcasters and media outlets such as Barclays, Nationwide, Nike, Sky Sports, BT Sport and talkSPORT. All Formula One drivers boycotted their social channels, including Lewis Hamilton, alongside well-known sporting figures such as Lionel Messi. FA President Prince William also took part, alongside UEFA, FIFA and a number of international football associations.

However, we know a social media boycott alone is not enough. The boycott demonstrated the power of the collective voices involved, and now places pressure on social media companies to step up and use their powers to effect change. Whilst we know that social media brings communities together and allows people to connect, that cannot be at the cost of others who receive abhorrent online abuse.

Football and wider sport have shown they are ready to take voluntary and proactive action in response to online abuse. We would now invite social media companies to respond to our requests, and alongside our partners in football and wider sport, we will engage with them as we continue to seek urgent change.

As a reminder, below is the change we are calling for, from social media companies:

Apply preventative filtering and blocking measures 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: ban perpetrators, stop account re-registration and support law enforcement 
A warning message to be displayed if a user writes an abusive message and need to enter personal data if they wish to send the message
Platforms to have robust, reliable and quick measures in place if abusive material is sent or posted
Transparent quarterly reports on the work social media companies are doing, internally and externally, to eradicate abuse on their platforms

We also welcome the announcement of the Online Safety Bill in this week's Queen's Speech and we're calling for it to be enacted in legislation as soon as possible. This represents progress, and we will continue working with Government to ensure measures are put in place as quickly as possible. In the meantime, we are urging social media companies to act now to address abuse on their platforms before regulation is in place.

Edleen John, our Director of International Relations, Corporate Affairs and Co-Partner for Equality, Diversity & Inclusion, said: “The support the social media boycott received showed that there is collective anger at the level of toxic online abuse which is able to be posted and sent to individuals on social media platforms. This happens daily with no real-world consequences and with individuals being left in a position where they are psychologically impacted by what they receive. 

“We were clear that the boycott alone was not enough, and that we will not stop there. We will continue to collaborate with Government on the Online Safety Bill, and we are strongly encouraging social media platforms to not wait for that regulation, instead being proactive in tackling the level of abuse on their platforms immediately.”

If you have experienced or witnessed discrimination on social media, you should make your local police force aware by filing a report here. More information on how to report posts to the respective social media channels can also be found here.

By FA Staff