Thierry Henry says football’s decision to follow his social media boycott is “a start” on the journey to ending online abuse.
Henry is pleased his decision to quit social media in March “created a wave”, resulting in the wider sporting community boycotting the platforms over the past weekend.
The former Arsenal striker praised the show of unity and said, “if you’re alone those companies don’t care about individuals”, as he called for an end to anonymity on social media platforms.
“It’s a start because people talked about it,” Henry told Sky Sports on Monday Night Football. “I’m still off it by the way.
“At the end of the day, if I stayed on it and talked about it on it, I don’t think people would have wanted to talk to me about it. So I came off it, a lot of people came to talk to me about it, I talked about it, and it created a wave.
“I’m more than happy that people realised what’s at stake not only in football, not only because of racism, because of bullying, harassment and how you can get abused on there.
“I think we all have kids, you don’t want to see that [happen to them]. My daughter is going through it, a lot of people here I’m sure watching are trying to see what the situation can be. Can it be regulated?
“A friend of mine was doing some live exercise on it and the music in the background stopped the video because he didn’t own the rights to the music. If you can manage to do that, surely with an NHS number – maybe passport can be difficult because not everybody has a passport – but we need to know who is behind those accounts.
“When I saw the reaction personally of football – that was amazing. And the reaction of everybody not only football because it seems like in the past few days everybody came to support it.
“I was really happy about it, I always mentioned the strength of the pack.”
Who was part of the boycott?
The FA, Premier League, EFL, FA Women’s Super League, FA Women’s Championship, PFA, LMA, PGMOL, Kick It Out and the FSA united for the boycott from Friday through to Monday.
The Scottish FA, Scottish Professional Football League, Scottish Women’s Football and PFA Scotland also confirmed the participation of clubs and football organisations in Scotland.
UEFA also gave its backing on Thursday, urging players, clubs and national associations “to lodge formal complaints whenever players, coaches, referees or officials are victims of unacceptable tweets or messages”.
FIFA also said it supports the English football-led social media boycott in response to discriminatory and offensive abuse on social media.
World football’s governing body added in a statement: “We believe that authorities and social media companies should take real and effective steps to put an end to these abhorrent practices because it’s getting worse all the time and something needs to be done – and done quickly – to put a stop to it.”
Key organisations from other UK sports – such as the England and Wales Cricket Board, England Rugby, Premiership Rugby, Scottish Rugby, the Professional Darts Corporation, British Cycling, the Lawn Tennis Association and the British Horseracing Authority – opted to join, as have broadcasters including Sky Sports, BT Sport, At The Races and talkSPORT.
The British Basketball League and Women’s British Basketball League also supported the boycott along with key rugby league organisations including the Rugby Football League, Super League Europe, Rugby League World Cup 2021 and the Rugby League Players’ Association.
What have the social media companies said?
A Twitter spokesperson told Sky Sports News: “Racist behaviour, abuse and harassment have absolutely no place on our service and alongside our partners in football, we condemn racism in all its forms.
“We are resolute in our commitment to ensure the football conversation on our service is safe for fans, players and everyone involved in the game.
“Since the season started on September 12, there have been over 30m Tweets from people in the UK about football. In that time we have removed over 7,000 Tweets in the UK that were targeting the football conversation with violations of the Twitter Rules. This represents roughly 0.02 per cent of the overall football conversation in the UK and does not reflect the vast majority of people who engage in vibrant discussions about football on Twitter.
“We have worked to improve our proactive measures, where now 90 per cent of the abuse targeting players is removed without the need for a user report. We’ve also provided expedited reporting channels to our football partners to ensure any potentially violative content is reviewed and actioned swiftly.
“Racism is a deep societal and complex issue and everyone has a role to play. We are committed to doing our part and continue to work closely with valued partners in football, government and police, along with the working group convened by Kick It Out to identify ways to tackle this issue collectively – both online and away from social media.”
Facebook, which owns Instagram, said it would “continue listening to feedback and fighting hate and racism on our platform” and work with UK police on hate speech.
A Facebook spokesperson said: “No one should have to experience abuse anywhere, and it’s against our policies to harass or discriminate against people on Instagram or Facebook.
“We agree with and have already made progress on many of the players’ suggestions, including taking tougher action against people breaking our rules in DMs.
“We also recently announced that, starting next week, we’ll provide new tools, based on consultation with footballers and anti-discrimination experts, to help prevent people seeing abusive messages from strangers.”
Sky Sports News has also contacted Snapchat, Tik Tok, and YouTube for a response.
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