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16th Jul 2021

Facebook and Twitter provide police with details of racists who abused England footballers

Danny Jones

Police are working with Facebook and Twitter to crack down on racists who abused England players

Social media apps are being called on to do more when it comes to online abuse – looks like they might finally be starting

Social media companies, namely Facebook and Twitter, are said to have now handed in dozens of individuals’ personal details to the police as the regulators and authorities look to crack down on online abuse and racism in football and beyond.

England players Bukayo Saka, Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford suffered a torrent of racial abuse on social media following the Euro 2020 final penalty shootout against Italy, as the trio unfortunately missed their penalties.

Both Facebook and Twitter are said to have been “working very closely” with investigating police officers, who say they are now digging into dozens of people’s racist tweets following Sunday’s game.

As of yesterday, four individuals had already been arrested, though it is believed a fifth has now been charged over alleged racial abuse online. One man from the Greater Manchester area even decided to turn himself in over his own tweets.

According to the Times, the tech giants will continue to provide names, emails and IP addresses of users who are believed to have sent discriminatory messages upon request from the authorities.

The need for social media companies to do more in combatting online abuse, be it racial or otherwise, has been emphasised for some time now, but was further highlighted after the England game and following Saka, Sancho and Rashford’s public statements.

Twitter said it removed more than 1,000 posts in the 24 hours during and after the match, as well as suspended a number of accounts for violating its rules; Facebook said something similar, as well as removing comments on their subsidiary, Instagram, too – Zuckerberg also owns WhatsApp, although the details around monitoring more private messaging platforms remain unclear.

Data analytics company, Crisp – who have recently been working with top-flight football clubs – found approximately 12,500 hate messages directed towards England players during the tournament.

Instagram’s chief executive, Adam Mosseri, told the Times that mistakes in the company’s detection software had allowed abusive posts to slip through, but that these had now been fixed.

He explained: “It is absolutely not OK to send racist emojis, or any kind of hate speech, on Instagram”, while Chief Constable Mark Roberts, of the National Police Chiefs’ Council football policing lead, said: ‘The racial abuse aimed at our own players following Sunday night’s game is utterly vile and has quite rightly shocked and appalled people across the country”.

He went on to caution those responsible, warning that “If we identify that you are behind this crime, we will track you down and you will face the serious consequences of your shameful actions”.