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Better late than never: Premier League clubs are boycotting social media against online discrimination

On April 30, the English Premier League and some other football organizations will hit the pause button on their social media channels. Online discrimination and hatred are on the rise, and according to the organizations, companies like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are not doing enough to stop the problem.

Racism has been discussed in European football since 1985. We are now about thirty years later and not much seems to have changed.

It is not only the supporters who show racist behavior. Recently we saw another player from Slavia Prague, Ondrej Kudela, who made a racist remark during a match. A few weeks later, UEFA decided to suspend him for 10 games.

It seems as if racism is ingrained in football culture and the federations do not immediately find a solution. That’s what 17 football players from the Dutch league have already said. Big names such as AndrĆ© Onana and Dumfries (captain of PSV) had their say in a big article on NRC. For example, Onana knew that he could not get a transfer to Italy because of his skin color. So it is not only a problem in England. With the boycott on social media, the English football league wants to send a signal to the rest of the world that something must change.

Hate comments on Twitter

Football White is one of the most hateful and critical places on the entire internet. There is not much wrong with criticism in itself, but when you personally insult, berate and even send death threats to players after a missed opportunity, the line is crossed. Thanks to the anonymity, it is very easy to send a tweet into the world without feeling guilty about it. People use that as an excuse to let their thoughts run wild, but don’t think about it any further.

One of the pioneers in the fight against online hatred is Marcus Rashford, the English striker of Manchester United. Rashford raised this issue in February, before there was any talk of a national hush. He does blame Twitter, Instagram or Facebook and he’s right. Accounts posting hateful comments should be banned immediately, which is rare now.

Fortunately, it does not stop with the online boycott. The Premier League also demands that the government enact stricter legislation on social media. With an ‘online safety bill’, for example, companies such as Twitter and Instagram are held responsible for discrimination on their platform, and are also fined for it.

4 days of silence

The evening of April 30, the boycott will start on the social media channels of all football teams in England. So no new posts will appear for 4 days. Because owned media (media of the football club itself, ed.) are becoming increasingly popular, this will certainly have a major impact. The English football clubs have millions of followers and thus give the sign to all their supporters that online hatred has no place in our society. Yet this action is not spared criticism.

The controversial ‘Super League’ was brought down by the general public in two days. Because there was so much criticism on social media and by the football world itself, the initiators had no other choice. Why can’t you do the same with online discrimination? Why are there no protests by the football fans against racism?

When the football club’s identity is jeopardized, supporters take to the streets in droves, but when it comes to morality in the stands, it remains remarkably quiet. The campaign to boycott four days is certainly a start in the fight against discrimination, although it should not stop there.

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