LONDON — Football stars past and present believe that social media companies need to up their game when it comes to tackling racial abuse on their platforms.
Black England footballers Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka were the target of a torrent of racial abuse on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter after England lost to Italy in the Euro 2020 final on Sunday.
Shaka Hislop, a former goalkeeper for West Ham United and Newcastle United who is a founding member of campaign group Show Racism the Red Card, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe” on Friday that social media companies need to do more, accusing them of “focusing on a selfish way to hide.”
The ex-footballer said social media companies base their value on the number of users, whether the user accounts are real or not, because it boosts their profits or their stock prices.
“That’s not a good enough excuse for me to continue to allow racism on their platforms in the way they’ve done,” he said.
“Their responsibility to the wider community goes far beyond their valuations or what their shareholders can get from their companies,” Hislop said. “They play a role in our culture, they play a role in our communities, and they have to recognize that.”
Saka, a 19-year-old Arsenal midfielder, said in a statement on Thursday that he does not want any child or adult to receive the “hateful and hurtful messages” he, Rashford and Sancho received this week after missing penalties for England. .
“I knew right away what kind of hate I was about to receive and that’s a sad reality that your powerful platforms aren’t doing enough to stop these messages,” he said.
“There is no place for racism or hatred of any kind in football or in any part of society and for the majority of people who come together to shout these messages, take action and pass these comments on to the public. By reporting to the police and dispelling the hatred by being nice to each other, we will win,” Saka said.
Sancho wrote on his Instagram profile on Wednesday that he saw the racist abuse after the match and that “it is nothing new”. Meanwhile, Rashford said he will not apologize for who he is.
A Facebook spokesperson told CNBC on Monday that the company has taken swift action to address racist abuse targeting English players on Instagram, which it owns.
“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.”
However, Instagram boss Adam Mosseri admitted on Thursday that his algorithms allowed some racist comments and emojis to remain on the platform.
“We have technology to try and prioritize reports, and we erroneously flagged some of these as benign comments, which they absolutely are not,” Mosseri said on Twitter in response to a BBC reporter.
“The issue has since been addressed and the publication has this context.”
A Twitter spokesperson said there is no place for racist abuse on its platform, adding that it has used software and human reviewers to delete more than 1,000 tweets and permanently suspend some accounts.
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.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson vowed on Wednesday to ban anyone who posts racist insults online from football matches, but he did not give a timetable.
Hislop said the law should be enforced after it is implemented.
“I think enforcement of laws and other legislation drives the behavior of the public,” he said. “Public behavior dictates shifts in culture, and that’s what we need here.”
— Additional coverage by Ryan Browne of CNBC.