- The Washington Times
Monday, July 12, 2021

England’s Football Association condemned online racist abuse of players in a statement early Monday morning after the team’s penalty shootout loss to Italy in Sunday’s European Championship final.

In the match, England and Italy finished extra time level at 1-1. In the shootout, Italy won 3-2, with English players Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka missing spot-kicks. All three players are Black.

Some of the focus has turned toward social media companies, and the FA urged Twitter and Facebook, among other platforms, to “step up and take accountability” of the racial abuse issued on their sites. Only then will there be change, the FA and others say.

“The FA strongly condemns all forms of discrimination and is appalled by the online racism that has been aimed at some of our England players on social media,” the FA’s statement read. “We could not be clearer that anyone behind such disgusting behaviour is not welcome in following the team. We will do all we can to support the players affected while urging the toughest punishments possible for anyone responsible.

“We will continue to do everything we can to stamp discrimination out of the game, but we implore government to act quickly and bring in the appropriate legislation so this abuse has real life consequences,” the statement continued. “Social media companies need to step up and take accountability and action to ban abusers from their platforms, gather evidence that can lead to prosecution and support making their platforms free from this type of abhorrent abuse.”

The British government has taken steps toward enacting such legislation through the Online Safety Bill, which would allow Ofcom — the United Kingdom’s communications regulator — the ability to fine companies up to £18 million (almost $25 million) or 10% of qualifying revenue for failing to stamp out harmful posts.

“Social media companies need to up their game in addressing it and, if they fail to, our new Online Safety Bill will hold them to account with fines of up to 10 per cent of global revenue,” Oliver Dowden, England’s secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, said in a tweet.

This comes after many top-level soccer clubs in England boycotted social media platforms over a weekend in April, protesting the racist and sexists posts that can proliferate the sites while urging those companies to act.

As the racial abuse unfolded on social media, a Twitter spokesperson told Reuters that the social media platform deleted more than 1,000 tweets and permanently suspended “a number of accounts for violating our rules.” Twitter said the “vast majority” of those tweets were detected proactively using technology.

Facebook followed suit, telling The Associated Press in a statement Monday that the company “quickly removed comments and accounts directing abuse at England’s footballers last night and we’ll continue to take action against those that break our rules.”

League Two club Leyton Orient announced a three-year ban for a supporter who tweeted racist abuse following Sunday’s Euro 2020 final loss. The club said it takes “a zero-tolerance approach to any racist abuse or discrimination,” but the fan would be refunded for their season ticket purchase.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted that “this England team deserve to be lauded as heroes, not racially abused on social media. Those responsible for this appalling abuse should be ashamed of themselves.”

And Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, echoed Johnson’s sentiments before adding more pressure to social media companies: “Those responsible for the disgusting online abuse we have seen must be held accountable — and social media companies need to act immediately to remove and prevent this hate.”

In a statement posted to Twitter, London’s Metropolitan Police said it was “aware of a number of offensive and racist social media comments being directed towards footballers” and that the “abuse is totally unacceptable, it will not be tolerated and it will be investigated.”

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