British sport to boycott social media giants over online abuse and discrimination

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TWTRFBArsenal’s German-born Bosnian defender Sead Kolasinac (R) plays the ball during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Manchester United at the Emirates Stadium in London on March 10, 2019.Ben Stansall | AFP | Getty Images

LONDON – The world’s biggest social media platforms are being boycotted by British sports teams, athletes and leading sports bodies over a lack of action regarding online abuse.

Facebook, Instagram and Twitter will be shunned from 3:00 p.m. London time on Friday to 11:59 p.m. on Monday.

The boycott — embraced by sports including soccer, rugby and cricket — comes as the U.S. tech giants continue to face criticism for failing to remove racist and sexist abuse that gets posted on their platforms.

Facebook, which owns Instagram, and Twitter said that racism and other forms of abuse have no place on their platforms.

Anti-discrimination organizations like Kick It Out and Show Racism the Red Card are involved in the boycott, as are sport’s governing bodies.

Kick It Out said in September that there was a 42% increase in reports of discrimination in professional soccer last season, with the number of incidents rising from 313 to 446.

Former World Cup winner and Arsenal’s record goal-scorer Thierry Henry, who removed himself from social media last month, hailed the boycott as a “start” in the battle against racism and discrimination.

“(What) the world of English football is doing at the minute and what’s going to happen at the weekend, people ask me, ‘Is it enough, the weekend?'” he told CNN this week. “And I’m like, ‘it’s a start.’ You know, you can’t be too greedy from not having anything to that. It’s a start.”

Watford Football Club captain Troy Deeney told the BBC on Friday that many athletes receive abusive messages online on a daily basis, while some people experience it hourly.  

On Friday morning, Alex Scott, who played for Arsenal and England before moving into broadcasting, urged members of the public to get involved. “Join us and switch off too, as we collectively demand change,” she wrote on Twitter.

Premier League Chief Executive Richard Masters said in a statement: “Racist behavior of