Yesterday I spoke up again about abuse on social media and how social media companies need to do more to combat it.
Shortly after, Arsenal launched their campaign to Stop Online Abuse
Arsenal have 4 main points:
1. Racist/discriminatory messages/posts should be filtered/blocked before they are received
2. Operate robust/transparent/swift measures to take down abusive material if it does get into circulation
3. Users subject to verification that allows for accurate ID of person behind the account. Steps taken to stop a user that has sent abuse from re-registering
4. Our platforms should actively assist investigating authorities in identifying the originators of discriminatory posts
The club is completed correct in demanding social media companies do more.
In recent months we have seen an increase in racist abuse, and a Premier League study showed the 7 in 10 of the abusive messages come from abroad.
Clubs are unable to do much if an abuser is not a member.
Last year saw a video of an Arsenal fan racially abusing Tottenham’s Son Heung-Min go viral.
Arsenal investigated the individual only to find that he was not even a red member, meaning that they could not suspend his membership.
Clubs hands are tied if people do not have memberships. They then need to rely on the police and courts to act, handing out convictions and Football Banning Orders. But at the moment the police have a lot more important things to investigate such as the increase in stabbings in London.
Arsenal’s CEO Vinai Venkatesham summed up the lack of action by social media perfectly:
“How do you explain to a black footballer that a piece of pirated content is taken down within minutes, but that’s not the same for racist abuse?”
And he is spot on.
Stick up a video of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scoring a goal, it will be taken down in seconds and you will probably end up suspended.
Abuse someone – whether it is racial, sexist, homophobic or anything – and often the social media companies come back after 2 weeks with “we saw nothing wrong” and leave the message up, allowing the abuser to continue.
It is a case of mixing up their priorities.
They are protecting revenues by taking down copywrited videos. But also not banning abusers is protecting revenues.
These social media companies rely on Daily Active User (DAU) figures to present to advertisers. Those advertisers then pay the social media companies depending on how many DAUs they have.
Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc have been nearly impossible to monetise.
They relied on selling data but this revenue has closed since the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the introduction of GDPR.
In 2020, Twitter’s net loss was $1.14 billion.
If they start banning users, they will see advertising revenues drop as a result.
It is just not in the interest for social media companies to ban users. It affects revenue streams, which in turn affects profit and ultimately their share price.
One huge problem is that many Twitter users are two-faced.
We see many people preaching “be kind” or “stop the abuse” but then sit there day in day out abusing people.
How can someone sit their demanding people stop the abuse when they have spent half a decade contributing a hate campaign towards Arsene Wenger, Mesut Oil, Granit Xhaka or Mikel Arteta?
For now, we all need to look at our own actions.
I have had people threaten to slit my throat, to silence me forever or attack me when I least expect it. I have thick skin, but others do not.
The person you abuse might not be the person that ends up harming themselves, or worse. But the blood is still on your hands. You contribute to the toxicity of social media.
By abusing footballers, hate campaigns against Arteta or Ozil. Abusing a footballer because he misses a chance. You are part of the problem.
We all need to do better.
But please, do not preach to me about “Be Kind” when you spend every day preaching abuse. Look at yourself and your own behaviour first.
My hope is if social media giants do not act, Arsenal will instruct all their players to close their social media accounts. And then other clubs follow.
Arsenal could do more themselves by blocking those that abuse, and instructing players to also block those accounts. Although it will only be limited as many of the abusers have “burner accounts” designed to abuse and then be blocked.
If fans can not behave when interacting with footballers, then remove the chance for them to interact.
But the problem is bigger than the way fans interact with footballers. It is about how we interact with each other.
Stop the hate.