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OPINION: Is English football’s social media boycott going to have an impact on kicking out racism?

Teams across the English football pyramid will boycott social media, starting this Friday at 3pm until 11.59pm on Monday 3 May.

The boycott is in response to the consistent online racist abuse that players are suffering, with Kyle Walker the latest victim following Manchester City’s Carabao Cup victory yesterday afternoon.

Teams from the Premier League, English Football League, Women’s Super League and the Women’s Championship will take part and this will mean there will be no online coverage across the weekend’s various fixtures from each club.

Discussions around a social media boycott have been simmering for a while but have been heightened following a string of racist abuse over recent weeks which has seen Trent Alexander-Arnold, Tyrone Mings and Son Heung-min all targeted.

Although the boycott is a step in the right direction into football uniting against racism there are questions over whether it will have the desired impact.

The harsh reality is that players will continue to be victims of racist abuse long after the upcoming boycott and I believe that there is only so much football clubs can do to stop it.

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The responsibility lies with each social platform and these companies need to be making more of an effort to restrict and filter racist messages that are sent online. The ease in which people are able to send these vile messages is frankly appalling and social media companies need to start making a conscious effort to change the way users are able to interact on their platforms.

It is not fair to expect players and clubs to battle racism alone. Recently Liverpool captain, Jordan Henderson, handed over his social media to anti-cyberbullying charity, Cybersmile, to raise awareness but why are the likes of Twitter and Instagram not making the same effort? In the same way in which fans are banned from stadiums, I believe that users should be banned from using social media if they are found to have been guilty of abuse.

Tony Burnett, the head of Kick It Out, has spoken out about the lack of change being made; “I keep hearing stats from social media companies talking about how many posts they have taken down before they get to an individual-that’s irrelevant.”

“The posts that cause the offence and cause the hurt and cause the pain are the ones that get through. They’re still getting through in numbers which are just inexplicable so not enough is being done, and I’m sick of platitudes on this, we want to see action.”

The only way to take a real stand against racism is for everyone to work together and until posts can be policed properly then the abuse of players will continue and undoubtedly become more horrid.

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Calls for users to have to authenticate their identity are becoming more and more appealing because it is far too easy for people to create multiple accounts and be able to send messages freely without fear of being identified.

This weekend’s boycott is long overdue and the fact that so many different clubs are uniting together shows just how severe the issue has become. We can only hope that this is the start of real change and players will no longer have to worry about going on their phones after matches.

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