English sport launches global boycott of social media


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Black screen on social networks: several athletes and clubs, mainly English, launched a boycott movement on Friday planned to last all weekend in order to protest against online insults, in particular racism.

Manchester United football club, seven-time Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton, but also the International Tennis Federation and even UEFA: after threats for several weeks, the sports movement took action on Friday.

Insults and insults towards players on social networks have multiplied by 4.5 since September 2019, denounced Manchester United on Friday: 86% of the publications targeted included racist insults, and 8% were homophobic or transphobic. Mancunians Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford were the targets in particular.

The Red Devils decided not to feed their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram account this weekend in protest.

The club will be far from the only one to disconnect. « From 3:00 p.m. today (in England, 4:00 p.m. in France, editor’s note), we will stop feeding our social networks and we will remain silent until Tuesday May 4, » the English Premier League decided on Friday.

« We take this position, together with the football community, to fight against online insults and discrimination on social networks », justified the organization.

English Premier League clubs have also announced sanctions against six people accused of insulting South Korean Tottenham striker Son Heung-min on social media.

– Global movement –

Other British organisations, such as the English Rugby Federation, the Cycling Federation or the English and Welsh Cricket Federations have joined the movement.

In France, the French Rugby Federation announced on Friday « to respond to the call for a boycott of social networks in order to raise awareness and denounce the scourge of racism, harassment and discrimination on the internet », as well as the club of FC Nantes football.

Several Formula 1 drivers have also taken action, including seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton, who is very committed to racism.

« As a sign of solidarity with the world of football, my social media will remain black this weekend. Discrimination, online or otherwise, has no place in our society but, for too long, it has been easy for a few to post hate messages behind their screen, » the pilot wrote on his social media.

His paddock compatriots Lando Norris and George Russell announced the same decision in the morning.

– Pressure on Facebook and Twitter –

F1 said Thursday to support the movement, without taking part, but other international bodies have taken the plunge.

This is the case Friday of the International Tennis Federation (ITF) which pointed to the responsibility of the platforms. « It’s time the companies at the helm of social media take a stand and support the sport’s efforts to stop name-calling, everywhere on social media, » the ITF said in a statement.

On Thursday, UEFA did the same and its Slovenian boss Aleksander Ceferin lamented that a « culture of hatred » could « grow with impunity ».

On February 11, in an open letter to Twitter executive Jack Dorsey and Facebook executive Mark Zuckerberg, English football officials called for action « for reasons of simple human decency ». Twitter replied that it did not intend to censor comments from anonymous accounts.

Calls for players to withdraw from social networks have multiplied in recent weeks. Former Arsenal and Les Bleus striker Thierry Henry announced at the end of March that he would step back until the platforms did more to fight « toxic » racism and harassment.


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