Apr 29, 2021 - Sports

English soccer plans social media blackout

Illustration of a phone with a flashing color bar test on its screen.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

English soccer is planning a social media blackout this weekend to protest the online bullying of its athletes and analysts.

Why it matters: This is the "most direct effort yet by a sport to pressure social media companies like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to take action against online abuse," per the New York Times.

The state of play: Online harassment has become an endemic problem across English sports, particularly regarding racial abuse.

  • Reports of discrimination within English soccer were up 42% last season, according to anti-discrimination organization Kick It Out.
  • But soccer is hardly the only problem area. Thus, the English cricket, rugby and tennis associations have also joined the social media blackout, which will run from Friday through Monday.

What they're saying: "[We] want to see significant improvements in [social media companies'] policies and processes to tackle online discriminatory abuse," said EPL chief executive Richard Masters.

The backdrop: This isn't the first time English soccer has demanded better from social media. In Februrary, top executives wrote an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey.

"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."

Go deeper: How the European Super League collapsed in spectacular fashion

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