Arsenal will join a social media blackout this weekend as clubs look to force the various platforms to do something substantial about abuse online.
The social media blackout has been rumoured for a few weeks now and it seems as if it will take place in the first weekend of May when Arsenal face Newcastle United.
It is believed that the blackout could spread to other sports, clubs and sponsors, with the FA, Premier League, EFL, Women’s Super League, and FA Women’s Championship already signing up with the aim of being silent on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitch, YouTube and LinkedIn to highlight the abuse suffered by so many.
In a statement, Arsenal said: “While we realise social media is one of the ways we can feel closer to our supporters across the world, across football and beyond we’ve seen an online world poisoned by hateful, racist and discriminatory words. We have seen our own players and legends and many of the Arsenal family receiving abuse and we cannot underestimate the impact it has. A boycott action from football in isolation will not eliminate the issue of online discriminatory abuse, but it will continue the emphasis on asking social media companies to do more to eradicate online hate.
“In February 2021, English football outlined its requests of social media companies, urging filtering, blocking and swift takedowns of offensive posts, an improved verification process and re-registration prevention, plus active assistance for law enforcement agencies to identify and prosecute originators of illegal content. While some progress has been made, the weekend’s boycott will serve as a reminder of the requests.
“While football takes a stand, together we urge the UK Government to ensure its Online Safety Bill will bring in strong legislation to make social media companies more accountable for what happens on their platforms, as discussed at the DCMS Online Abuse roundtable earlier this week.”
Sanjay Bhandari, chairman of anti-racism group Kick It out, said: “social media is now sadly a regular vessel for toxic abuse. this boycott signifies our collective anger at the damage this causes to the people who play, watch and work in the game. by removing ourselves from the platforms, we are making a symbolic gesture to those with power.”
The Premier League’s CEO, Richard Masters, also released a statement: “Racist behaviour of any form is unacceptable and the appalling abuse we are seeing players receive on social media platforms cannot be allowed to continue.
“The Premier League and our clubs stand alongside football in staging this boycott to highlight the urgent need for social media companies to do more in eliminating racial hatred.
“We will not stop challenging social media companies and want to see significant improvements in their policies and processes to tackle online discriminatory abuse on their platforms.”