LONDON — Facebook and Twitter have been criticized for not acting quickly enough to deal with a tidal wave of racial abuse against England’s black footballers after the team’s loss to Italy in the European Championship final.
Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka were the target of a flurry of racist comments on major social media platforms after England lost on Sunday. The three players missed penalties in a 3-2 shootout defeat to Italy.
The Football Association’s governing body condemned the abuse in a statement on Sunday night, saying it was “dismayed by the online racism being targeted on social media against some of our English players”.
“We could not be more clear that anyone behind such disgusting behavior is not welcome to follow the team,” the union said on Twitter. “We will do everything we can to support the affected players while pushing for the harshest possible penalties for everyone responsible.”
The racist response highlighted the amount of online abuse on social networks and raised questions about whether tech companies are doing enough to combat it. Several top British sports teams and athletes boycotted Facebook, Instagram and Twitter over a weekend in April to protest the companies’ failure to remove racist and sexist posts.
The UK government wants to crack down on big tech companies for spreading harmful content. Proposed legislation, known as the Online Safety Bill, would give media watchdog Ofcom the power to fine companies up to £18 million ($24.9 million) or 10% of their annual worldwide revenue, whichever is higher, for breaches.
“I share the anger at the horrific racial abuse of our heroic players,” Britain’s Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said in a tweet Monday morning.
“Social media companies must do their best to address it and if they don’t, our new online safety law will hold them accountable with fines of up to 10 percent of global revenue.”
Another British politician, Conservative MP Damian Collins, took to Facebook and asked the tech giant how many accounts it had removed because its terms of service prohibit hate speech.
A Facebook spokesperson said the company has taken swift action to address racist abuse targeting English players on its Instagram photo-sharing app.
“No one should be racially abusive anywhere, and we don’t want that on Instagram,” said the spokesperson. “We quickly deleted comments and accounts last night alleging abuse of the English footballers and we will continue to take action against those who break our rules.”
“The horrific racist abuse against English players last night has absolutely no place on Twitter,” a Twitter spokesperson told CNBC.
“In the last 24 hours, through a combination of machine learning-based automation and human review, we quickly deleted over 1,000 Tweets and permanently suspended a number of accounts for violating our rules – the vast majority of which we found we were proactive in doing. used technology.”
However, some offensive tweets and Instagram posts were still around 1pm London time on Monday.