Raheem Sterling issues plea to Twitter and Facebook amid racist abuse figures
Raheem Sterling has called on social media platforms to “step up” after it was revealed 43 per cent of Premier League players in a new study had experienced racist abuse online.
A Professional Footballers’ Association report analysed messages sent to 44 high profile current and former players across the top divisions of English football.
Incredibly, it showed that of the 825,515 tweets analysed, 3,000 were abusive messages and 56 per cent of the discriminatory abuse was racist.
England star Sterling, who has been regularly targeted for abuse online, said: “I don’t know how many times I need to say this, but football and the social media platforms need to step up, show real leadership and take proper action in tackling online abuse.
“The technology is there to make a difference, but I’m increasingly questioning if there is the will.”
Wycombe Wanderers striker Adebayo Akinfenwa, who also took part in the study and had his social media activity and replies analysed, said: “I can say that players don’t want warm words of comfort from football’s authorities and social media giants, we want action.
“The time for talking has passed, we now need action by those who can make a difference.”
The key findings of the PFA report revealed:
43% of Premier League players in the study experienced targeted and explicitly racist abuse.
29% of racially abusive posts came in emoji form.
50% of the total online abuse recorded was received by just three players, as a result of their speaking out in support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
Incredibly, the PFA study – done in partnership with data science company Signify Group – found a “glitch” in the Twitter system which meant that emojis do not show up when they run software trying to track abuse online.
Sterling took part in the study and, in the 48 hours after he posted a tweet in response to the White Lives Matter Burnley banner which was flown over the Etihad in July, the Manchester City star received 9,755 tweets with his handle.
They ranged from a mix of “support and disdain” while Crystal Palace Wilfried Zaha was also targeted after going public about racist abuse on Instagram ahead of a game at Aston Villa.
The dozens of replies analysed included 50 mentions of “rape” along while one reply urging him to “get a grip” received hundreds of likes, according to the report.
Sanjay Bhandari, chairman of anti-racism group Kick It Out, said: “This report confirms what we have known for a while – that social media can be a battleground of hate with few consequences for abusers.
“We also know that players and the public who witness this hate are victims, who are let down by the cracks in the system. The question is, what do we do about it?
“We need government, law enforcement, the leagues and clubs to commit to working together to fill in those cracks in the enforcement system.
“We need better government regulation and improved sharing of data and intelligence to scratch below the surface, in order to understand and address root causes. Crucially, we need fans and social media organisations to be part of the solution.
“This is a behavioural and technological problem. We need behavioural and technological solutions."
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