Led by English football, on the weekend of Friday 30 April to Monday 3 May, sport united across the world to call on social media companies to do more to stop online abuse. Now the pressure is on social media companies to respond to the change we want to see on their platforms.
The combined following of the accounts, who we know joined the social media boycott and supported our calls for change, is estimated at over 1.7 billion, showing our requests to social media were shared far and wide across the UK and overseas.
Women in Football, alongside The FA, Premier League, EFL, FA Women’s Super League, FA Women’s Championship, PFA, LMA, PGMOL, the FSA and Kick It Out, led the initial boycott plans. Soon gathering momentum, a range of other sports, organisations and individuals swiftly followed suit.
Alongside football, clubs and governing bodies of other sports across the UK, including rugby, cricket, tennis, cycling, horseracing, hockey and netball all took part, as well as brands, broadcasters and media outlets such as Barclays, Nationwide, adidas, Nike, Sky Sports, BT Sport and talkSPORT. All Formula One drivers boycotted their social channels, including Lewis Hamilton, alongside well-known sporting figures such as Lionel Messi. FA President Prince William also took part, alongside UEFA, FIFA and a number of international football associations.
However, we know a social media boycott alone is not enough. The boycott demonstrated the power of the collective voices involved and now places pressure on social media companies to step up and use their powers to effect change. Whilst we know that social media brings communities together, and allows people to connect, that cannot be at the cost of others who receive abhorrent online abuse.
As a reminder, below is the change we are calling for, from social media companies:
Apply preventative filtering and blocking measures to stop discriminatory abuse from being sent or seen
Be accountable for safety on platforms and protect users by implementing effective verification
Ensure real-life consequences for online discriminatory abuse: ban perpetrators, stop account re-registration and support law enforcement
A warning message to be displayed if a user writes an abusive message and need to enter personal data if they wish to send the message
Platforms to have robust, reliable and quick measures in place if abusive material is sent or posted
Transparent quarterly reports on the work social media companies are doing, internally and externally, to eradicate abuse on their platforms
We also welcome the announcement of the Online Safety Bill in this week’s Queen’s Speech and we are calling for it to be enacted in legislation as soon as possible. This announcement represents progress, and we will continue working with the government to ensure measures are put in place as quickly as possible. In the meantime, we are urging social media companies to act now to address abuse on their platforms before regulation is in place.
Jane Purdon, Women in Football Chief Executive, says: “The social media boycott brought football and wider sport together to say online abuse must stop. Too many suffer at the hands of a few and women in football are no exception - players, coaches, officials, those working in the media and many more are subject to unacceptable and harmful discriminatory abuse.
“Social media plays a critical role in civil society. It is vital that all can contribute to conversations on social media with confidence, and in safety, which is why the announcement of the government’s Online Safety Bill is so important and why we will continue to work with the other football stakeholders to push for action from social media companies. There is no place for online abuse in football or anywhere else.”
If you have experienced or witnessed discrimination on social media, you can report it to us through our online reporting form. You can also make your local police force aware by filing a report here.