Arsenal legend Thierry Henry is the latest footballer to take a stand against online abuse. He announced this week that he would no longer be using social media until companies such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram do something to address the problems of racism and cyber-bullying.
The following statement was posted to his now disabled Twitter and Instagram accounts:
“Hi Guys. From tomorrow morning I will be removing myself from social media until the people in power are able to regulate their platforms with the same vigour and ferocity that they currently do when you infringe copyright.
“The sheer volume of racism, bullying and resulting mental torture to individuals is too toxic to ignore. There HAS to be some accountability.
“It is far too easy to create an account, use it to bully and harass without consequence and still remain anonymous.
“Until this changes, I will be disabling my accounts across all social platforms. I’m hoping this happens soon.”
Arsenal later put out a post in support of Henry:
Social media has become such an distressingly ever-present part of life. Many footballers have embraced these various platforms in order to interact with fans, promote personal causes and establish their brand. Unfortunately, the ugly side of social media has become a huge problem. Online abuse and racism have led many athletes to shut down their accounts and leave the vitriol behind.
Henry is hoping that his action will help lead to change. The Arsenal legend is followed by 2.3 million people on Twitter as well as 2.7 million on Instagram.
The list of Premier League players that have been victims of online trolls is long and includes Arsenal players Willian and Eddie Nketiah. Other players that have been subjected to racist abuse include Marcus Rashford, Antonio Rudiger, Patrick van Aanholt, Alex Jankewitz, Antony Martial, and Reece James. These are, depressingly, just a very, very select few.
In addition to racism, players have also been on the receiving end of homophobic comments and personal threats. Granit Xhaka and Hector Bellerin are two Gunners that have been subjected to this type of abuse.
Last month Arsenal’s Chief Executive Vinai Venkatesham addressed the issue at the Financial Times’ Business of Football summit: “The abuse of so many of our black footballers on social channels is probably and possibly the biggest problem we have in the game at the moment.”
Secretary of state for culture, media, and sport, Oliver Dowden addressed Henry’s announcement: “No one should have to switch off social media because of abuse. Social media firms must do more to tackle this, and we are introducing new laws to hold platforms to account. This is complex and we must get it right, but I’m absolutely determined to tackle racist abuse online.”
Journalist Darren Lewis added his voice to the conversation:
In February the Premier League along with the FA sent a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg asking them to figure out a solution to eradicate abuse from their platforms.
Henry’s statement is a call to action for social media heads. When he says “the sheer volume of racism, bullying and resulting mental torture to individuals is too toxic to ignore. There HAS to be some accountability” he is asking that these companies be held responsible for the content that is carried on their platforms.
The problem of online abuse is not going away. Perhaps if others followed Henry’s example and stopped using social media, the heads of these companies might be forced to deal with this problem.