Man Utd Soccer Star Says Facebook, Twitter Make Racism Seem Okay
(Bloomberg) -- Former Manchester United captain Rio Ferdinand condemned social media firms for failing to crack down on racial abuse, warning they were helping to “normalize” such language among young people in schools.
The former England international told lawmakers on Thursday how he had to explain to his own children why people were leaving monkey and banana emojis under his posts on social media.
“Players shouldn’t have to go through this,” he told MPs and peers scrutinizing draft legislation into reforming social media rules for platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. “In the 70s and 80s it was something that was a lot more common. We went through a period where maybe it was behind the scenes a little bit more, but now the data is telling us it’s here and it’s back.”
His testimony came two months after England stars were racially abused online after the country lost on penalties to Italy in the European Championship final. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said at the time that he “utterly” condemned the online abuse, and pledged that those found guilty would be banned from attended soccer matches.
The U.K.’s proposed Online Safety Bill would compel Silicon Valley giants to share information about content on their platforms -- a shift from the status quo where the companies provide it voluntarily -- and aims to protect people from illegal and harmful content.
Ferdinand, who led his club to victory in the 2008 Champions’ League, said the prevalence of racist language on social media was “normalizing racist behavior.” Young people reading such comments can see there “are no repercussions for putting it online,” he said, so they think “it’s fine, it’s normal, so I’ll say that at school.”
On Wednesday, former West Ham player Anton Ferdinand -- younger brother of Rio -- told a separate group of MPs that social media firms needed to do more to tackle racist abuse.
“Are they waiting for a high-profile footballer to kill themselves, or a member of their family to commit suicide?” he told the home affairs committee.
Anton Ferdinand suffered a barrage of abuse on social media after an incident in 2011, when Chelsea defender John Terry allegedly used a racial slur against him during a match. Terry received a four-game ban and a £220,000 fine from the Football Association but was later cleared in court.
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