An open letter to the CEO’s of Twitter and Facebook from the heads of the key governing bodies in English football.
Dear Jack and Mark,
Recent weeks have seen the levels of vicious, offensive abuse from users of your services aimed at footballers and match officials rise even further, we write to ask that for reasons of basic human decency you use the power of your global systems to bring this to an end.
The language used is debasing, often threatening and illegal. It causes distress to the recipients and the vast majority of people who abhor racism, sexism and discrimination of any kind. We have had many meetings with your executives over the years but the reality is your platforms remain havens for abuse. Your inaction has created the belief in the minds of the anonymous perpetrators that they are beyond reach. The relentless flow of racist and discriminatory messages feeds on itself: the more it is tolerated by Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, platforms with billions of users, the more it becomes normal, accepted behaviour.
The services you provide are of course hugely impressive in their reach, scale and ease of use. Billions of communications every day are enabled by them, but a minority has found protected spaces where they can say whatever they want without regard to the law. We ask you to accept that none of your users should be hounded off your platforms, losing access to the great communications media of our times, because of their gender or the colour of their skin. The targets of abuse should be offered basic protections, and we ask that you accept responsibility for preventing abuse from appearing on your platforms and go further than you have promised to do to date. We ask that:
- Messages and posts should be filtered and blocked before being sent or posted if they contain racist or discriminatory material
- You should operate robust, transparent, and swift measures to take down abusive material if it does get into circulation
- All users should be subject to an improved verification process that (only if required by law enforcement) allows for accurate identification of the person behind the account. Steps should also be taken to stop a user that has sent abuse previously from re-registering an account
- Your platforms should actively and expeditiously assist the investigating authorities in identifying the originators of illegal discriminatory material
Many footballers in English football receive illegal abuse from accounts all over the world and your companies have the power to bring this to an end. We welcome the comments made on Twitter by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Oliver Dowden, that the UK Government is going to change the law to make social media companies more accountable for what happens on their platforms and they should “start showing their duty of care to players today by weeding out racist abuse now.”
Players, match officials, managers and coaches of any origin and background and at any level of football should be able to participate in the game without having to endure illegal abuse. We, the leaders of the game in English football, will do everything we can to protect them, but we cannot succeed until you change the ability of offenders to remain anonymous.
We note the current assurances from Facebook that standards will be tightened, but far more is needed to drive change. We call for meetings with your organisations to discuss the evidence of abuse on your platforms, the action you are taking, and how you plan to directly address the matters outlined in this letter.
Richard Masters, Chief Executive, Premier League
Mark Bullingham, CEO, The FA
Trevor Birch, CEO, EFL
Kelly Simmons, Director of Women’s Professional Game
Gordon Taylor OBE, CEO, PFA
Richard Bevan, CEO, LMA
Mike Riley, Managing Director, PGMOL
Sanjay Bhandari, Chair, KIO