The Prime Minister has set out action to tackle online racist abuse in football following the abhorrent social media attacks on black England players after the Euro 2020 final.
For the first time, the Government will amend legislation to extend the use of Football Banning Orders so online abusers can be banned from stadiums for up to 10 years, in the same way violent thugs are barred from grounds.
The Government, Premier League and football authorities will work together to help tackle all aspects of online abuse footballers are experiencing, ahead of the Online Safety Bill coming into force.
And last night, the Prime Minister met with executives from a number of social media companies in Downing Street to urge them to do more to get on top of online abuse.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:
I was appalled by the abhorrent abuse directed towards a number of our footballers in the aftermath of Sunday’s game. More must be done to prevent people being bullied and trolled online.
We are introducing legislation that will force social media companies to take responsibility and action where this vile behaviour exists on their platforms or face substantial financial penalties if they fail in their duty to do so.
We are also working closely with the football and police authorities to ensure we can track and take action against online abusers and will ban them from football grounds in the same way we would if they had committed these offences on our streets.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said:
I’ve heard repeatedly from footballers about the devastating impact of racist abuse flooding their social media all hours of the day. It is clear it has a profound impact on them and their young fans. Enough is enough, it’s time to clean up social media.
The tech firms know what is coming down the track with our tough new Online Safety laws but must use their ingenuity and considerable resources to stop this racist online abuse now.
We’re going to work with football authorities this coming season to drive the change that’s needed, and we will make sure these individuals are nowhere near our national game. Social media firms must improve safety measures on their sites and ensure they help the authorities find and punish these racist abusers. It’s time for them to step up so their platforms can’t be used as weapons of hate.
Football Banning Orders and Online Communications
Given the impact that this racist language online is having on football, we do not think those involved should be allowed to attend football matches. We will therefore extend football banning orders to those who are abusive in connection with football on social media.
A football banning order is a civil order that is used as a deterrent to prevent yobs becoming involved in football-related disorder. They can last between three and 10 years. The change will be brought forward as soon as practical.
Government working in partnership with football authorities
The government will work together with the Premier League and other football authorities to examine recent cases of footballer abuse online and identify what more needs to be done. They will consider areas such as identifying and reporting, preventative and reactive action of social media companies and cooperation with law enforcement.
This will build on the excellent work the Premier League is already doing to support players who have been subject to abuse. One example of this is the recent successful prosecution of a man in Singapore after he sent serious online abuse to Brighton and Hove Albion player Neal Maupay.
The Government and football community need social media companies to use their full resources to stop this abuse and better protect players.
The draft Online Safety Bill was published in May. It will require online companies to tackle harmful abuse on their platforms – both by preventing abuse and removing any posts that are against their use policies. They will need to stop repeat offenders from opening new accounts and make it easier for the authorities to find people who set up anonymous accounts to abuse others. Racist abuse will be designated a priority harm in the legislation.
If they fail to live up to their responsibilities, social media firms will face very tough sanctions including fines of up to 10% global turnover and ultimately criminal liability for managers.
No 10 social media summit
The Prime Minister met with executives from a number of social media companies in Downing Street to discuss the issue of online abuse.
During the discussion, the Prime Minister urged those at the meeting to do more to get on top of this issue, including work to help locate the origin of online abuse and identify those responsible.
He highlighted the forthcoming introduction of the Online Safety Bill as one of the important tools against social media abuse but said companies needed to demonstrate they were taking action now.
Whilst acknowledging some of the work that had been done to help identify and quickly remove some of the online racial abuse towards a number of England football players, he urged social media firms to step up and take responsibility for what was published on their platforms or face further action from government.