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More must be done about online abuse – players’ union

Research commissioned by the Professional Footballers Association (PFA) found there was a 48% increase in unmoderated racist online abuse in the second half of the 2020-21 football season, with 50% of abusive accounts coming from the UK.

Despite social media platforms pledging better moderation, the PFA-funded research found more than three-quarters of the 359 accounts sending explicitly racist abuse to players were still on the platform. As of July 2021, the vast majority of these accounts remain unsanctioned.

Additionally, only 56% of racially abusive posts identified throughout the season had been removed, with some posts remaining live for months, and in some cases, the full duration of the season.

The research monitored more than six million social media posts on Twitter, looking at player accounts from the Premier League, Women’s Super League (WSL) and English Football League (EFL).

The data in this report suggests platforms are concentrating on removing individual, offensive posts instead of holding those who write them accountable. Signify reported 1,674 accounts to Twitter during the 2020-21 season, a third of which were identified as being affiliated with a UK club.

Head of the Fans for Diversity campaign Anwar Uddin said: “We all use social media on a daily basis – and it should be a great place for players to connect with supporters.

“But if the social media companies don’t act on abuse and protect players from discrimination online I can see a lot of them leaving social media entirely. That’s something we don’t want to see.”

The report also found players across the leagues faced homophobic, ableist and sexist abuse. Homophobic abuse was included in 33% of abusive posts.

In May, the FSA and PFA joined a football-wide social media boycott to draw further attention to online abuse.

PFA Chief Executive Maheta Molango said: “The time has come to move from analysis to action

“The technology exists to identify abuse at scale and the people behind offensive accounts.

“Having access to this data means that real-world consequences can be pursued for online abuse. If the players’ union can do this, so can the tech giants.”

Funding partners

  • The Football Association
  • Premier Leage Fans Fund


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