English football announces social media boycott, fires shot at companies

English footall is uniting to boycott social media for four days in response to relentless online abuse of players.

The blackout of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram will begin next Friday UKT and last until Monday, covering a full round of games in the men’s and women’s professional leagues.

It will be undertaken by the FA, Premier League, English Football League, Women’s Super League, Women’s Championship as well as player, manager and referee bodies, and anti-discrimination group Kick It Out.

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

The bodies are concerned about the “relentless flow of discriminatory messages” and are calling for “real-life consequences for purveyors of online abuse across all platforms.”

Two second-division clubs, Birmingham and Swansea, and Scottish champion Rangers have held weeklong social media boycotts recently, while former Arsenal and France striker Thierry Henry has removed himself from social media because of racism and bullying.

In February, English football leaders united for an unprecedented joint letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter counterpart Jack Dorsey that demanded the platforms stop being “havens for abuse” by taking tougher action. It asked for an improved verification process that ensures users provide accurate identification information and are barred from registering with a new account if banned.

“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,” Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said.

Alongside the boycott, English football leaders are urging the British government to enact strong legislation to make social media companies more accountable for what appears on their platforms.

Last October, a study revealed more than 3,000 abusive messages were sent to 44 high-profile current and former players in the first six weeks of the EPL season. 56 per cent of which were racist.

At the time Manchester City star Raheem Sterling told Sky Sport UK that the technology is there to make a difference.

“I don’t know how many times I need to say this, but football and the social media platforms need to step up, show real leadership and take proper action in tackling online abuse.

“The technology is there to make a difference, but I’m increasingly questioning if there is the will.”

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