4th October, 2021 1:56 pm
Jermaine Jenas, the former England footballer turned TV presenter, has urged the government to sanction social media companies that fail to stamp out racism and abuse on their platforms.
For months Jenas has been monitoring the rise in online abuse against Black footballers and assessing whether social media companies have kept promises to do more in the wake of abuse faced by Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka and Jadon Sancho after the Euro 2020 final this summer.
In a Channel 4 documentary, Hunting the Football Trolls, Jenas says there has been no improvement in policing and banning racists, and accuses social media companies of being the biggest trolls of all.
Channel 4 commissioned the data company Signify to analyse more than 6 million posts across the 2020-21 season including Euro 2020. It found a 48% increase in unmoderated racist abuse in the second half of the season, peaking in May 2021, with 50% of abusive tweets coming from UK accounts.
It also found that Raheem Sterling was subjected to more than twice as much abuse as Harry Kane during the Euros, with 54% of this being racist. Guardian analysis reported similar findings during Euro 2020 – 2,000 abusive tweets were directed at and named the England team including the N-word and monkey emojis.
Jenas said he found a severe disconnect between what the police and social media companies deemed abusive. “The police are working their socks off to get as much information as they can. The UK Football Policing Unit, a specialist department, are actively tracking the things that are online. But generally the police are quite powerless, which I found scary.”
In the UK, the online harms bill outlines a duty of care on social media companies to protect users from harmful content. The bill proposes fines of up to 10% of a company’s annual turnover, which would amount to about £6bn for a firm the size of Facebook.
“Nobody knows what happens behind closed doors,” Jenas told the Guardian. “All footballers look like they’re rich and living great lives but players are receiving an obscene amount of racism and online abuse.
“Social media companies have had more than enough time to adapt and adjust, but all they have done is ask us to change. They’ll send us a new update: turn off these settings, turn off those settings, turn off your comments. But why am I having to do all this when they should be policing it? If people shout abuse at you on the street they’d be arrested, so why are they allowed to do it on these platforms?”
A Facebook company spokesperson said: “No one should have to experience racist abuse anywhere, and we don’t tolerate it on Facebook and Instagram. We remove racist content as soon as we see it and respond to valid legal requests to help with police investigations.
“We’ve also built the Hidden Words tool to prevent people from seeing this abuse in their comments and in DMs … People can also limit comments and DM requests during spikes of increased attention. No one thing will fix this challenge overnight, but we’re committed to continuing our work with the Premier League and others to help keep our community safe from abuse.”
Source: The Guardian
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