Facebook announced over the weekend that they will be assisting football in an attempt to “stamp out racism in the game”.
This makes it appear that racism on social media is footballs problem. It is not.
Racism on social media – whether it be Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or YouTube – is social media’s problem.
The abuse online is not only aimed at footballers – it is aimed at cricket players, boxers, musicians, actors and “ordinary folk”.
For too long, social media companies have not done enough to tackle online abuse.
They realise that a lot of their Daily Active Users (DAU) only log on to abuse others.
If they took a tough stance against abusers, their DAUs would drop, which in turn would see advertising revenue and therefore profits drop.
These companies Rey on advertising revenue to survive. Without that revenue they would not have the income to operate. They literally need abusers logging on each day with multiple accounts to boost their DAU statistics.
Facebook, Twitter et al literally turn a blind eye to online abuse in favour of profits.
The recent abuse of Marcus Rashford, Reece James, Axel Tuanzebe and Anthony Martial is disgusting, but not new.
Online racist abuse hidden under a cape of anonymity has existed for as long as the internet.
It predates currently social media and goes back to internet forums, IRC chat rooms and MySpace.
All social media has done is bought us closer together and made it easier for someone to sit online and directly abuse someone they do not know.
For a long time, the stance taken by social media companies stance has been “if you are a victim of online abuse, report it to your local authorities”.
This is literally them washing their hands with the situation. Saying it has nothing to do with them.
Yet they provide the platform that the abusers use. And they could work a lot harder to stamp out the abusers.
By Facebook saying they will “work with football” shows once more they are trying to shift the blame.
They are saying the issue is for football and they will help. The issue is actually the social media companies.
Solutions are easy.
Take Twitter, for example.
Instead of leaving “verification ticks” for celebrities, journalists, etc; they could have them for everyone.
You upload a valid ID and that then allows your account to be verified.
Stage two is then allow you to mute unverified accounts and restrict them from sending you a DM.
Overnight that will clean up your timeline – as most of the abusers are “burner accounts” set up by teenagers across the globe to only send abuse.
It is unlikely people would tweet abuse knowing that Twitter knows exactly who they are.
“But I don’t want social media to have a copy of my ID” will be a response by many.
You don’t have to give it. It would be optional. It would then be a users choice whether they want to mute unverified accounts or not.
You chose not to verify, then your abuse falls on deaf ears. You are basically shouting at a post on your wall.
So simple. So effective.
Much of the racism that footballers face online does not come from the UK – which makes it even harder for local authorities to act.
We have seen an actress in India racially abuse Alex Iwobi, and much of the racist abuse comes from African’s. Literally black people racially abusing other black people.
“We need better education” is good in theory. But when much of abuse is coming from children that think “it’s a joke” or people outside of your jurisdiction, authorities can do little.
The kids will eventually grow out of it and probably be ashamed of a tweet that they sent at 14. Your 25 year old who is still messaging abuse is beyond education.
Arsenal can not do anything about someone in India abusing Alex Iwobi. Great Manchester Police can do nothing about someone in Nigeria racially abusing Marcus Rashford.
Even when the abuse happens within the UK, clubs and authorities can do little when it is a 14 year old doing the abuse.
Whilst Twitter, Facebook, etc allows people to set up anonymous accounts, abuse will continue.
Instead of “working with football to stamp out racism in the game”, social media needs to look at itself and stamp out racism on its own platforms.