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Liverpool FC Make Further Statement Regarding Online Racist Abuse of Players

Both Naby Keïta and Rinsola Babajide have been victims of racist abuse on social media this week.

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 Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Arsenal and Mohamed Salah of Liverpool take a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement prior to the Premier League match between Arsenal and Liverpool at Emirates Stadium on April 03, 2021 
 Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Arsenal and Mohamed Salah of Liverpool take a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement prior to the Premier League match between Arsenal and Liverpool at Emirates Stadium on April 03, 2021 
Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Manager Jürgen Klopp denounced social media abuse in strong terms at his press conference earlier today, and the club have now released a second statement on racist abuse of players in the space of a week.

“Liverpool Football Club has today issued the following statement regarding racist abuse on social media platforms.

“Once again we are sadly discussing abhorrent racial abuse the morning after a football game. It is utterly unacceptable and it has to stop.

“LFC condemns all forms of discrimination and we continue to work with our inclusion partners through our Red Together initiative to campaign against it.

“As a club, we will offer our players any and all support that they may require. We will also work with the relevant authorities to identify and, if possible, prosecute those responsible.

“We know that this will not be enough until the strongest possible preventative measures are taken by social media platforms and the regulatory bodies which govern them.

“The current situation cannot be allowed to continue and it is incumbent on all of us to ensure that it does not.”

This statement, which follows on the heels of the previous statement made just two days ago on April 7th, emphasizes the collective responsibility inherent in combatting abuse on social media.

The players, too, have worked to bring attention to this issue, with Jordan Henderson giving control of his social media platforms to the Cybersmile Foundation, which aims to tackle abuse online and provide support for its victims.

Stronger action is taking place elsewhere in the English football, as Swansea City announced on Thursday that the club (both Men and Women’s teams) would be boycotting all social media for a full week — a much longer period than the 24 hours-long boycott that occurred in 2019.

Following Swansea City’s announcement, both Birmingham City and Rangers FC in Scotland joined the boycott.

Many have spoken out about the culpability of social media platforms themselves to clamp down on racist abuse. Racism is pervasive in our wider society and is not solely located on social media, but on these platforms such abuse is often allowed to remain visible for long periods of time (if removed at all) and abusers go unpunished.

Both Rangers and Swansea have put pressure on social media companies to do more to clamp down on racist abuse of their players online.

Swansea City noted in their statement that “Chief Executive Julian Winter sent a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to reiterate the need for the companies to do more in the fight against online abuse, which has targeted players and managers from a number of teams.”

Rangers, in their own statement, noted that they were joining Swansea both in solidarity and so as to “underline the ongoing concerns over a lack of accountability and responsibility from social media outlets.”

While social media companies have previously reported that they are “working” to address online abuse, for many of us this does not feel enough — as I stated on my own personal Twitter account, these companies are adept at locating and removing tweets that are considered copyright infringements, yet racial abuse is often allowed to remain visible and reports made to these companies about such abuse are often returned marked inoffensive — as was the case with the abuse posted to Babajide.

Clearly social media companies have available to them the tools to shut down abuse when it occurs and are choosing not to use them, possibly because there’s no monetary reward for such action (versus instances of copyright issues).

As such, these clubs’ boycotts are admirable as a means to target such monetary concerns: football clubs and individual players have massive followings and generate engagement on a large scale. By refusing to use these platforms, these clubs are withholding this engagement from the social media companies.

One wonders whether Liverpool have considered following suit.

Note on wider conversations: often these conversations lead to suggestions that social media should be tied to identity markers (photo ID, identifiable names, etc.). For information about how such a move would largely work to further marginalize many groups and individuals who rely on online anonymity to avoid abuse, job loss, or interpersonal concerns, as well as not be an effective deterrent, please see this article, which unpacks the legal and social impacts of such moves.

TLDR: People abuse others when real names are showing (e.g. blue tick accounts that nonetheless produce racist/sexist/homophobic/transphobic/and other abuse; people abuse each other on Facebook, where names are visible; etc.); requiring identification accessible by government bodies in spaces often used to organize against these governments (e.g. Arab Spring) is problematic and assumes such policies would not be used to silence online protests; and this part:

“The people who most heavily rely on pseudonyms in online spaces are those who are most marginalized by systems of power. “Real names” policies aren’t empowering; they’re an authoritarian assertion of power over vulnerable people.”

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