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Football’s social media boycott reached 1.7BILLION as leading stars and sports joined in

English football’s social media boycott in response to racism and abuse online reached 1.7 billion people after all major sports and leading personalities joined in, the EFL has revealed today. 

Leading sports stars, clubs and organisations took part in a four-day social media blackout, led by the EFL, to tackle abuse and discrimination from Friday April 30.

Football Association president Prince William plus the likes of Marcus Rashford, Gary Lineker, Gary Neville and Lewis Hamilton tweeted their support for the blackout before it began.

Gary Neville announced he would be joining the boycott, which started at 3pm on April 30

Manchester United and England star Marcus Rashford demanded social media companies take more action to fight abuse and discrimination ahead of the boycott

Manchester United and England star Marcus Rashford demanded social media companies take more action to fight abuse and discrimination ahead of the boycott

FA president Prince William announced he would be joining the social media boycott

FA president Prince William announced he would be joining the social media boycott

United star Bruno Fernandes showed his support for the boycott before the blackout

United star Bruno Fernandes showed his support for the boycott before the blackout

And they were joined by clubs from the top of the Premier League, including Manchester United, down through the EFL and football pyramid, all the way into the grass roots game.

Football was joined by cricket, rugby union, rugby league, tennis, Formula One – with every driver joining in the online silence – and broadcasters, in taking a striking stand against all forms of discrimination on social media.

Trevor Birch, chief executive of the EFL said: ‘One month ago, EFL Clubs put forward proposals for a social media boycott to make a stand against sustained online abuse of players and others connected to our game.

Manchester United were among the leading teams that went off social media for a weekend

Manchester United were among the leading teams that went off social media for a weekend

Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton posted this message as the blackout started

Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton posted this message as the blackout started

‘The protest went on to unite the football family and eventually extended to support from other sports, partners, brands and fans both at home and abroad ensuring our collective voice was heard by hundreds of millions across the globe.

The campaign was designed to force social media companies to take more effective action against users of their platforms, who are abusive to footballers and sports stars. But it turned into a shared voice protesting against all online abuse.

The Premier League were among several sports bodies joining the boycott of social media

The Premier League were among several sports bodies joining the boycott of social media

Football, in particular, has been steadfast in its criticism of social media firms for failing to use their technological power to protect people from vile abuse online. 

Among sport’s demands are improved filtering to block discriminatory messages, better support for the police when they take action against perpetrators and real-life consequences, such as blocking future use of platforms. 

In a statement the EFL said: ‘The combined following of the accounts who we know joined the social media boycott and supported our calls for change totalled over 1.7 billion, showing our requests to social media were shared far and wide across the UK and overseas.’

England cricket captain Eoin Morgan echoed the ECB's demands that social media companies must do more to stamp out online abuse

England cricket captain Eoin Morgan echoed the ECB’s demands that social media companies must do more to stamp out online abuse

‘We know a social media boycott alone is not enough. The boycott demonstrated the power of the collective voices involved, and now places pressure on social media companies to step up and use their powers to effect change. Whilst we know that social media brings communities together, and allows people to connect, that cannot be at the cost of others who receive abhorrent online abuse. ‘

This week, an Online Safety Bill was included in the Queen’s Speech, which is due to come into law later this year.

It is expected to enforce a duty of care on social media companies, establishing financial consequences for them if they fail to adequately protect users.  

The scale of the abuse in sport, particularly football, has prompted widespread revulsion and powered mass participation in the boycott. 

United's survey between September 2019 and February 2021 discovered 3,300 abusive posts

United’s survey between September 2019 and February 2021 discovered 3,300 abusive posts

Ivan Toney shared a screenshot of the messages, which contained monkey and banana emojis

Ivan Toney shared a screenshot of the messages, which contained monkey and banana emojis 

Willian revealed he was subject to racist abuse on Instagram after playing for Arsenal

Willian revealed he was subject to racist abuse on Instagram after playing for Arsenal 

Last month,  Manchester United reported a shocking 350 per cent increase in online abuse aimed at its players.

The club carried out its own survey over a 17-month period between September 2019 and February 2021, which revealed the massive rise.

It discovered 3,300 abusive posts targeting United players – 86 per cent of which were racist and eight per cent were homophobic – with Anthony Martial, Axel Tuanzebe and Fred all confirming that they have been racially abused in recent months. The majority of posts included the N-word or emojis with racist intent.

The situation peaked in January of this year with over 400 abusive player posts, while United also discovered an increase in fans abusing each other on social media.

WHAT FOOTBALL IS CALLING FOR

The EFL has set out what football is seeking to achieve through the social media boycott and ongoing campaign to hold big tech to account. The changes sport is calling for from social media companies, include:

· Apply preventative filtering and blocking measures to stop discriminatory abuse being sent or seen

· Be accountable for safety on platforms and protect users by implementing effective verification

· Ensure real-life consequences for online discriminatory abuse: ban perpetrators, stop account re-registration and support law enforcement

· A warning message to be displayed if a user writes an abusive message and need to enter personal data if they wish to send the message

· Platforms to have robust, reliable and quick measures in place if abusive material is sent or posted

· Transparent quarterly reports on the work social media companies are doing, internally and externally, to eradicate abuse on their platforms

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