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English football bodies send open letter to Facebook and Twitter demanding action Against Abuse

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Football bodies requests to Facebook and Twitter: Posts should be filtered and blocked before being sent, measures to take down abusive material if in circulation, users should be subject to an improved verification process, platforms should actively assist investigating authorities

The Premier League, FA, EFL, WSL, Women’s Championship, PFA, LMA, PGMOL and Kick It Out have all co-signed the letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook founder, chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerburg, asking them “for reasons of basic human decency” to use the power of their systems to end the abuse.

High-profile players in both the men’s and women’s game have been victims of racist abuse on social media in recent weeks, while Premier League referee Mike Dean was subjected to death threats following a controversial decision over the weekend.

Facebook-owned Instagram announced new measures, including the removal of accounts to prevent abusive messages on its platform and developing new controls to help reduce the abuse people see.

The letter from football’s governing bodies said: “The language used is debasing, often threatening and illegal. It causes distress to the recipients and the vast majority of people who abhor racism, sexism and discrimination of any kind.

“We have had many meetings with your executives over the years but the reality is your platforms remain havens for abuse.

“Your inaction has created the belief in the minds of the anonymous perpetrators that they are beyond reach. The relentless flow of racist and discriminatory messages feeds on itself: the more it is tolerated by Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, platforms with billions of users, the more it becomes normal, accepted behaviour.”

The letter was signed by FA chief executive Mark Bullingham, his counterparts at the Premier League and the EFL, Richard Masters and Trevor Birch, the director of the women’s professional game Kelly Simmons, Professional Footballers’ Association chief executive Gordon Taylor, League Managers Association chief executive Richard Bevan, referees’ chief Mike Riley and Kick It Out chair Sanjay Bhandari.

It comes in the wake of weeks of vile abuse directed at players across the men’s and women’s professional game.

Manchester United players Marcus Rashford, Axel Tuanzebe, Anthony Martial and Lauren James are among those who have been the targets of social media abuse, along with West Brom’s Romaine Sawyers and Chelsea defender Reece James, Lauren James’ brother.

The letter urges Facebook and Twitter to ensure no user is “hounded off” their platforms because of their gender or the colour of their skin.

It calls on the platforms to put in place mechanisms which filter or block posts containing racist or discriminatory material, operate “robust, transparent and swift” measures to take down any material which does get into circulation and ensure users are subject to an improved verification process so that they can be accurately identified.

“Players, match officials, managers and coaches of any origin and background and at any level of football should be able to participate in the game without having to endure illegal abuse.

“We, the leaders of the game in English football, will do everything we can to protect them, but we cannot succeed until you change the ability of offenders to remain anonymous.”

About Charles Igbinidu

Charles Igbinidu is a Public Relations practitioner in Lagos, Nigeria

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