Twitter responds as Uefa joins social media boycott protesting against online abuse

Social media companies are under pressure to tackle abuse

Twitter has responded as a sports’ social media boycott gathered strength on Thursday with several organisations joining England’s football leagues in a show of solidarity against online abuse.

European football’s governing body Uefa said it would join this weekend’s boycott, as is England Rugby and British Cycling. Uefa said it would stay silent across its platforms, starting at 1500 BST on Friday.

Earlier the Rugby Football Union (RFU) said all its social media channels, including England Rugby, Premier 15s, Greene King IPA Championship and GB7s will switch off social media accounts until Monday evening.

Twitter released a statement which failed to reference the boycott directly, instead insisting racist abuse was the fault of a tiny minority and “a deep societal and complex issue [in which] everyone has a role to play”.

Twitter said: “Racist behaviour, abuse and harassment have absolutely no place on our service and alongside our partners in football, we condemn racism in all its forms. We are resolute in our commitment to ensure the football conversation on our service is safe for fans, players and everyone involved in the game.

“Since the started on September 12th, there have been over 30m Tweets from people in the UK about football. In that time we have removed over 7,000 Tweets in the UK that were targeting the football conversation with violations of the Twitter Rules. This represents roughly 0.02% of the overall football conversation in the UK and does not reflect the vast majority of people who engage in vibrant discussions about football on Twitter. 

“Racism is a deep societal and complex issue and everyone has a role to play. We are committed to dong our part and continue to work closely with valued partners in football, government and police, along with the working group convened by Kick It Out to identify ways to tackle this issue collectively – both online and away from social media.”

Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin said action needed to be taken after a rise in online abuse and hate directed at footballers and those involved with the game.

“There have been abuses both on the pitch and on social media. This is unacceptable and needs to be stopped, with the help of the public and legislative authorities and the social media giants,” he said in a statement.

“Allowing a culture of hatred to grow with impunity is dangerous, very dangerous, not only for football, but for society as a whole. We’ve had enough of these cowards who hide behind their anonymity to spew out their noxious ideologies.”

England women’s rugby captain Sarah Hunter said that while social media has helped bring fans together, online abuse, racism and harassment should not be endured.

The campaign has also received backing from Premiership Rugby, English cricket and the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA), as well as broadcasters BT Sport, Sky Sports and talkSPORT.

British Cycling CEO Brian Facer said his organisation would switch off its social channels this weekend.

“Sport should be inclusive, diverse and welcoming, and athletes must be able to engage with the public without being on the receiving end of sustained, pervasive and abhorrent abuse,” he said in a statement.

“Equally importantly, the social media companies have a responsibility to be good corporate citizens, and along with other national governing bodies, clubs and individuals, we call on these companies to play their part too.”

The Professional Darts Corporation and Professional Darts Players’ Association are also joining the boycott.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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