Racial Abuse on Social Media

12th July 2021

So about last night. England lost the Euro 2020 final to Italy. That was hard to take.

But what was worse than the loss, was the racial abuse that some young black English players received after the game. The primary targets were the 3rd, 4th, and 5th penalty takers, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, and Bukayo Saka, who are 23, 21, and 19 years old. Each of them had the courage to step up and take a penalty in a final when the entire country was watching them.

Whatever happened, happened, and Italy beat England 3-2 on penalties.

But what immediately followed were streams of racial abuse on those three players social media accounts. Most of them posted by freshly created accounts, that were created solely to abuse young players that were representing their countries at a major tournament.

And for as many arguments I see and hear about football players “taking the knee” before games, most of them based on being against the BLM organisation itself, and either not agreeing with their politician stances, or just insisting that politics should remain out of sport. Last night was a clear example of why footballers feel that they need to continue with the symbol. Whether or not the gesture is aimed at supporting the BLM organisation itself or a symbol against racism, it’s very much clear that racism well and truly exists within a group of football fans that quickly turn on players after a bad result.

It’s very easy to jump to the opinion that social media accounts should require some form of identification, to try and deter the level of abuse that occurs every day on the platforms. I’m torn because there are a lot of downsides to no longer having anonymity online, but when things like this happen, I start to think is the price that we need to pay? Because something needs to change.

Several organisations and high-profile people have already released statements condemning the abuse, but I’m not sure if they will actually be effective at stopping it from happening again. Sure, it will offer a level of support to the players, but something needs to be implemented so that it’s not that easy to post racial abuse on social networks.

Maybe some will say this is against some kind of free speech rule, but are social media companies not capable of not allowing racist comments to be made? Instead of relying on their reporting tools after such remarks have been posted.

I can only hope that the press that will no doubt be created because of the recent abuse will force the social media companies to start thinking about what else they can do to prevent it from happening in the future.

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By Chris Hannah. Say hello on Micro.blog, Twitter, or email.