English football took a stand against online abuse and racism on social media this weekend by staging a boycott as Premier League clubs joined their counterparts in the FA, EFL and WSL in protest. A Premier League statement explained that "social media companies must do more to eradicate online hate," So, what's next?
Photo Source: The Premier League
The anonymity argument The FA has previously called on social media companies to introduce identification for accounts on their platforms after an increase in online abuse aimed at footballers. However, nothing illustrates the lack of knowledge of social media more than the constant discussion of 'demanding' the banning of online anonymity, claims Philip Grindell, CEO and Founder of Defuse Global. “Enforcing identification or increased verification of users will put people’s lives in danger in countries where regimes consider any contrary opinion to be a crime, often punishable by torture and death. Those whistle-blowers who rely upon being anonymous to expose corruption, prejudice and other forms of oppression will be silenced.” If anonymity is off the table, what options does football have? Whilst prosecutions can take place, there is no guarantee that they end in success as we have seen with Ian Wright. However, creating a system to report through a single point of contact would greatly increase the chances of effective prosecution. “(Football) needs to work with experts, who have already been on this journey… Currently, each football club runs their own system, as do each of the footballing authorities. Each has the same effect, slowing down the process and damaging any opportunities to quickly identify those responsible. This is not a job for a diversity expert, it is a job for specialist investigators.” Grindell continued. This, alongside the implementation of genuine consequences, such as sporting banning orders that apply across stadiums, pay-tv subscriptions and even internet usage, is football's best bet at really tackling the issue.
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