TECH giants risk tarnishing a golden decade of football by not doing enough to tackle online racism, the Culture Secretary says today.
After we told of Thierry Henry’s web hell, Oliver Dowden said the Arsenal legend’s evidence was “too toxic to be ignored”.
Facebook, Google and Twitter face fines of billions unless they take action now — with Whitehall drawing up laws that could take ten per cent of their global revenue unless they do more.
Mr Dowden said he held “shocking” chats with players, including Sun columnist Troy Deeney, and it was clear that abuse has migrated from “the stands to social media”.
He said inaction could cast a shadow over the decade of football ahead in which the UK hosts Euro matches this summer and the Women’s Euros come here next year, and we bid for the 2030 World Cup.
He added the time had come for firms to “deploy their brilliant engineers” to strip the sites of hate.
His call in The Sun comes after a government race relations report sparked a row by concluding that the country is a “beacon” to the world.
Dr Tony Sewell wrote in his report: “We no longer see a Britain where the system is deliberately rigged against ethnic minorities.”
The report did say that social media firms don’t do enough to tackle racism.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer called its findings disappointing.
And race campaigners rejected the dossier, saying it failed to take into account the “lived experience” of many Brits.
Let’s see action to tackle it
By Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden
Sadly, racism in football seems to have moved from the stands to social media.
I recently spoke to a group of footballers, including Sun columnist Troy Deeney, to hear directly about the abuse they face and what they'd like their Government to do about it.
They were very open, and it was shocking to hear about the racist abuse they deal with on a daily basis.
As Thierry Henry said, this situation is too toxic to ignore – and I'm determined to tackle it.
After a terrible couple of seasons due to Covid, we should be looking forward to a golden decade of football.
The enthusiasm of the post-lockdown kickoff on Monday shows the strength of the grassroots. The women’s game is flourishing.
We are building better all-weather facilities in every corner of the country.
We will be proud hosts of the Euros this summer and the Women's Euros next, and we are starting exploratory work on our bid for the World Cup in 2030.
So let's not allow online abuse to tarnish our game.
Let's not force footballers to choose between either engaging with their fans and having to see racist comments all hours of the day, or come off social media altogether.
We've been working on new laws to make the online world safer. It's complex, and we have to get it right, and ensure freedom of expression.
But I firmly believe we can have a free and open internet without hateful, racist comments going unchecked.
Companies have a clear picture of what our laws will do.
They can deploy their brilliant engineers right now to stop racist remarks being posted and shared.
I believe them when they say they want their platforms to be positive and safe places. So let's see the action now.
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