Paris – Black screen on social networks: several sportsmen and clubs, mainly English, launched Friday a boycott movement planned to last all weekend in order to protest against insults online, in particular racism.
Manchester United football club, the 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, Manchester United denounced Friday: 86% of the publications targeted included racist insults and 8% were homophobic or transphobic. Mancuniens Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford were particularly the target.
The Red Devils decided not to feed their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts this weekend in protest.
The club will be far from being 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, with the football community, to fight against online abuse and discrimination on social networks, » said the organization.
« The online slurs must stop. Social media must do more. #NoRoomForRacism #StopOnlineAbuse, » the Premier League wrote on Twitter at the start of the movement.
Prince William, second in the line of succession to Queen Elizabeth II and (honorary) president of the English Football Association (FA) has announced that he is joining « the entire football community » and ceasing his activities on the social networks for the weekend.
Manchester United, whose players have been particularly targeted, recently banned six fans, including three annual subscribers, accused of insulting Tottenham’s South Korean striker Son Heung-min on social media.
– Global movement –
Other British organizations, such as the Rugby or Cycling Federations, as well as the English and Welsh Cricket Federations have joined the movement.
Several Formula 1 drivers have also engaged, including the seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton, very committed against racism.
« As a sign of solidarity with the world of football, my social networks will remain black this weekend. Discrimination, whether online or not, has no place in our society, but for too long it has been easy for some- ones from posting hate messages behind their screens, ”the pilot wrote on his social media.
His compatriots in the paddock, Lando Norris and George Russell, announced the same decision in the morning. They were followed in particular by the Finnish Valtteri Bottas, the Dutchman Max Verstappen, the Monegasque Charles Leclerc, the Frenchman Esteban Ocon …
– 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 on Friday of the International Tennis Federation (ITF) which pointed out the responsibility of the platforms. « It is time for the companies leading social media to take a stand and support sport’s efforts to stop the name calling, everywhere on social media, » the ITF said in a statement, emulated by the Grand Slam tournaments of Roland-Garros and Wimbledon.
UEFA did the same on Thursday, its Slovenian boss Aleksander Ceferin deploring that a « culture of hatred » could « grow in impunity ».
On February 11, in an open letter to Twitter leader Jack Dorsey and Facebook leader 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. The former Arsenal and Blues striker Thierry Henry announced at the end of March to withdraw until the platforms do more to fight against racism and « toxic » harassment.