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Facebook and Instagram respond to PFA’s anti-racism campaign

Facebook and Instagram have responded to a 24-hour social media boycott in protest at online racial abuse, which has been backed by Premier League stars.

The Professional Footballers’ Association’s #Enough campaign urged players to stay off social media from 0900 on Friday morning.

The PFA says #Enough is intended as a show of solidarity with players who have been targeted, as well as a demand to social media organisations and the game’s authorities that more needs to be done.

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A spokesperson for Facebook told Press Association Sport: “There is no place for racism or abusive behaviour on Facebook.

“We will remove hate speech or credible threats of any kind, and we encourage anyone who sees content they find offensive to report it so we can remove anything that breaks our Community Standards.”

Facebook said it had developed a range of tools that allow users to moderate and filter content on their pages by hiding or deleting comments, blocking certain words, turning on a profanity filter and banning people.

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“There is always more we can do and we are continuing to invest in technology and our team of 30,000 people working in safety and security so everyone has a safe and positive experience on Facebook,” the spokesperson said.

Instagram also responded by declaring its commitment to tackling the problem.

“We are committed to fostering a kind and supportive community and are continually investing in ways to ensure everyone on Instagram has a positive experience,” a spokesperson told Press Association Sport.

“We encourage anyone who sees content they find offensive to report it in-app and we work quickly to remove anything that breaks our guidelines.

Manchester United defender Chris Smalling was racially abused by Barcelona fans this week

Manchester United defender Chris Smalling was racially abused by Barcelona fans this week (Ian Hodgson/PA)

“Nothing is more important to us than the safety of everyone on Instagram and we are committed to finding more ways to support them.”

Twitter said on Thursday it was now suspending three times more abusive accounts within 24 hours after receiving a report than this time last year.

“Progress in this space is tough, but we are deeply committed to improving the health of the conversation on the platform,” a Twitter spokesperson said.

Manchester United defender Chris Smalling gave his strong backing to the campaign after he was abused on Twitter after his side’s Champions League defeat in Barcelona this week.

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Smalling joins a lengthening list of players, also including  Mohamed Salah, Danny Welbeck, Raheem Sterling, Michy Batshuayi, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Moussa Sissoko, who have received abuse over the same platform in recent years.

Smalling said: “Throughout my career I have developed a thick skin against verbal abuse, justifying it as just ‘part of the game’ but the time has come for Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to consider regulating their channels, taking responsibility for protecting the mental health of users regardless of age, race, sex or income.”

Concern is mounting over racism in football after a spate of attacks on players both on social media and in and around stadiums.

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England’s black players were subjected to repeated chants during their Euro 2020 qualifier in Montenegro last month, while Tottenham defender Danny Rose revealed recently he has “had enough” and “can’t wait” to quit the game.

World governing body FIFA and world players’ union FIFPro have given their backing to #Enough.

The campaign has also received the backing of clubs in the Premier League, English Football League and in Europe, plus widespread support throughout non-league football and from former players.