Thierry Henry has announced that he will step away from social media until the various platforms start taking racism seriously.
The Frenchman, who recently stepped down as CF Montréal coach for family reasons, published a strongly worded statement on Twitter on Friday saying he would remove himself from social media by the following morning.
He said: “Hi Guys, from tomorrow morning I will be removing myself from social media until the people in power are able to regulate their platforms with the same vigour and ferocity that they currently do when you infringe copyright.”
The former Arsenal and Barcelona player added: “The sheer volume of racism, bullying and resulting mental torture to individuals is too toxic to ignore. There HAS to be some accountability. It is far too easy to create an account, use it to bully and harass without any consequence and still remain anonymous. Until this changes, I will be disabling my accounts across all social platforms. I’m hoping this happens soon.”
Several footballers have been subjected to racial abuse online recently and soon after Henry’s tweet the secretary of state for culture, media and sport, Oliver Dowden, said: “No one should have to switch off social media because of abuse. Social media firms must do more to tackle this and we are introducing new laws to hold platforms to account. This is complex and we must get it right, but I’m absolutely determined to tackle racist abuse online.”
The Manchester United players Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood and Fred are only three of the many footballers who have been racially abused online recently. The Swansea midfielder Yan Dhanda hit out at social media companies last month after he had become another victim of online abuse on Instagram.
South Wales police launched an investigation after Dhanda received a private message following Swansea’s 3-1 defeat against Manchester City but the player criticised Facebook, which owns Instagram, for not being proactive enough. The account holder was prevented from sending direct messages “for a set period of time”.
“The punishment given to the perpetrator actually gives them more fuel for hate as now they know for sure there are no firm consequences to their actions online,” said Dhanda, who is of British Asian background. “His dm’s may be restricted but the ramifications of his actions continue to ripple through our community.”
Dhanda also told the BBC: “Banning someone from sending messages for a few days just proves that these people that are sending the racist messages know there is actually no real punishment. They get a slap on the wrist, and then they can go back to saying and doing whatever they want to hurt people’s feelings and making people think negatively about themselves.”
A spokesperson for Facebook said on Friday: “We don’t want discriminatory abuse on Instagram and we remove it when we find it. Between October and December last year we took action on 6.6 million pieces of hate speech content on Instagram, 95 per cent of which we found before anyone reported it to us.”