For years I have said the racism seen on social media towards footballers is not English footballs problem, but the problem of social media companies.
Last week I blogged that it is time for footballers to stop taking the knee. That I stood with Wilfreid Zaha that it had become a gesture with no meaning.
Two years ago I wrote a blog entitled Racism is society and social media’s problem; not an English football problem.
For a long time I have pointed out that racism in football was no longer a middle aged, white, balding Englishman hurling abuse to black players from the terraces. That the abuse had moved online.
That to label abuse an “English problem” was wrong. That just because it was players in England being abused, it did not mean that the abusers came from England
My take was that when I scrolled through the abuse, much of it came from fans living abroad. And that abuse which did come from these shores was from children and teenagers who thought it was “banter” and would soon learn it was not.
Many of those who have racially abused footballers in England have been arrested over the years. Their stories (where they were of age) making national press. Yet the authorities were always powerless to stop someone from India, Nigeria or Saudi Arabia abusing a footballer.
The Indian actress that racially abused Alex Iwobi summed the sad situation up.
It fell into “more racist abuse in English football” but it ignored where the abuser came from. The fact she escaped punishment showed that English authorities had little to know power against those living abroad.
A football club, The FA or The Premier League can not ban someone who lives abroad and has no intention of going to the game. The police are unable to do anything as the abuser is not living under English law.
They can not stop a man from Nigeria tweeting abuse, or an actress from India putting something on her Instagram or Snapchat.
Social media shows that many places across the globe are less developed mentally than the likes of the UK. Countries where discrimination is the norm, even enshrined in law.
I have been labelled all sorts over the years for pointing out that much of the racist abuse towards footballers comes from India, from Nigeria, and from many other countries that still maintain backwards views and are simply not as tolerant as the UK.
But a recent study by the Premier League showed that Seven out of 10 social media posts abusing Premier League players come from trolls overseas.
Thierry Henry recently quit social media in an attempt to highlight the abuse on platforms.
Henry’s statement is spot on.
Social media is now filled with accounts that abuse people daily. There only goal is to bring others down. Or to say something so controversial it makes them “famous”.
And it is not just racial abuse. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram are cesspits where homophobia, sexism, transphobia and anti-Semitism is rife.
When Henry says social media is “too toxic to ignore” he is spot on.
For those who follow me on Twitter will know, I left it at the back end of last year.
It had become tiresome dealing with those who like to spread their toxicity.
Last year I had someone email my work pretending to be a “neighbour” of mine claiming that I had racially abused them in the street. They used an anonymous Email account and when invited to my office to discuss the matter further with my MD, they failed to respond,
In 2019 I had someone write a letter to my employer with a picture she had doctored demanding they sack me for “racism”. It took my work 5 minutes of going through her timeline to realise she spends all day abusing people that have a different view to her own and continually abuses female journalists in football.
In 2018 I had someone calling me up at my place of work over 10 times one afternoon abusing me. Abuse is not a new thing.
Back in 2016, I have had someone go onto Google images and take pictures of my work place and then Tweeting them to me with threats. “I will see you when you least expect it” they said. This person now spends all day abusing Mikel Arteta on Twitter for clout.
Last year I had someone circulate my name, address, place of work and pictures of me on social media. All an attempt to encourage people to find me or write to my employer.
I am thick skinned guy and have always called out the bullies. I have lost count the amount of times I have said to someone “you know my name, where I live, work and rink. Do something”. And none have.
Because you see, these online bullies. Those that racially abuse footballers on Twitter. Those that threaten to find people. They are the cowards.
They hide behind their anonymous accounts, or sit in a foreign country, tweeting their abuse. They know that little can be done about their actions.
But as Henry said, something can be done. And it is up to the social media platforms to act.
But will they ban the abusers? The racists? The homophobes? Or are they scared that their business model is bult around how many Daily Active Users they have?
They start banning people, they lose advertising revenue. And that is why they do not act.
It is time for the media to recognise that racism in English football is not an English problem. That it is a social media problem.
Until social media act, then people from around the globe will continue to abuse others.
The two aren’t mutually exclusive. Racism is a British problem, as it is a problem in other countries. Brandishing it a social media problem diminishes the responsibility we – as citizens, have within the borders of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to ensure that racism doesn’t exist in our society. Social media is just a magnifying glass or perhaps an x-ray machine for the cancer of racism that already exists in the body of this country. Cure the ailment of abuse through education, “calling it out” (as you put it) and by default you will start to see it decline on social media platforms. You ask too much of corporations to solely solve societal issues that have existed in the fabric of our country for over half a millennia.