Facebook ‘horrified’ by online abuse of Premier League footballers

Facebook shocked by online harassment of footballers – Fadzai Madzingira, head of content policy, in conversation with sports editor Dan Roan

Facebook has expressed its disgust at the ongoing misconduct of online gamers and says it has announced tougher measures to combat the problem.

The social media platform is changing the rules for direct messaging on Instagram, a platform it also owns.

This will close the accounts of those who repeatedly send offensive personal messages on Instagram.

Fadzai Madzingira, head of UK content policy, said it was sad that abuse was still happening on platforms.

Mazingira told Sport: I am appalled by the kind of abuse that people, particularly these players, are subjected to, regardless of who they are, be it their race, their religion or their gender, and as a society we are disappointed that this kind of behaviour is happening on our platform too.

That’s why today we’re announcing a tougher approach to accounts that violate our EU standards and Instagram direct messaging goals.

A number of Premier League players, including Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford and Axel Tuanzebe, West Brom’s Roma, Chelsea full-back Reece James and his sister, Manchester United striker Lauren James, have been the victims of offensive online posts in recent weeks.

The Football Association has asked the government to act. He has since said that social media companies could face heavy fines, which could reach billions of pounds, if they fail to tackle abuses on their platforms.

When asked by sports editor Dan Roan if Facebook allows such abuse, Mazingira replied : No, I’d think it was inaccurate.

I think platforms like ours allow communities of people to connect with things they enjoy. If we’re going to talk about hate, it shouldn’t be something that happens on a platform.

What’s changing on Instagram?

Current and former footballers are asking users of social media platforms to provide verification documents when creating their accounts so they can be more effectively prosecuted if they break the rules.

According to Facebook, this will prove difficult to implement in communities where such material is not available.

If we necessarily wanted to use government identity card or passport data, we would be denying access to the very people who use our platforms to build communities, so we deliberately allow that access, Madzingira added.

The company claims to have addressed 6.5 million instances of hate speech on Instagram between July and September last year, including direct messages that are harder to hand over to police due to privacy rules.

From now on, if someone violates the rules of Instagram Direct Messages, we will set a specific ban or suspension for a specific period of time and extend that period if that person continues to violate the rules, Madzingira said.

Today, we are announcing that we will now delete these accounts if they continue to violate Instagram’s direct messaging rules.

Facebook said it would not specify how many breaches the removal would cause, because criminals could use this information to toy with the system.

We are only a small part of correcting this.

Facebook said it is doing its best to combat hate and racism on our platform, but added that the problems are bigger than us.

Some users have called for a ban on certain emoticons often used in racist messages, but Madzingira argued against a ban on symbols that can be used innocently in other contexts.

She also said filters can be used to prevent others from leaving offensive comments on posts, and that work is also underway to prevent banned users from opening new accounts.

When asked if Facebook prioritizes profit over fighting abuse, Mr. Mazingira replied : I think that would be an incorrect assessment.

Because if people don’t feel safe on the platform, they can’t be there.

We recognise that the solution to this problem is everyone’s responsibility and we want to do our bit. The frustration these players feel is the horrific abuse they endure.

Police need more help from social media platforms

Mark Little – the target of a racist post on social media that is being investigated by police – said he was surprised that platform owners are only now responding.

He said: I applaud them for making this change, but it’s kind of confusing to me because what they announced is what I had already assumed.

They went to the norm instead of going near what I think was acceptable for what was happening.

Small, 32, added that a big company like Facebook should be able to set a precedent for what is happening in the wider community, and that police need more help from social media platforms.

He went on to say: I don’t think it will be that hard to identify the people who do.

Everyone has to have some sort of accreditation to use these platforms, and I think that will eliminate a lot of the abuse.

More must be done to eradicate violenceMore must be done.

Oliver Dowden, Minister for Culture, welcomed the tougher measures, but stressed that racist abuse is still a reality for too many people and more needs to be done to eradicate it.

He went on to say: For too long, the world’s most popular and influential social media companies have been unable to cope with the flood of horrific racist attacks on their platforms.

With our upcoming cybersecurity law, we are ushering in a new era of accountability for these companies, and this could result in heavy fines for companies that fail to protect their users in a clear and transparent manner.


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