After football players in England voiced their anger over being targeted with racist messages, Instagram said Wednesday that doing so would disable accounts of users sending abuse.
Just repeated racism bans a user, as Instagram confirms, without specifying how many messages it takes to remove an account.
“We don’t share this number publicly because we don’t want people to play our systems,” Instagram owner Facebook said in an email response to The Associated Press.
The UK government is also putting pressure on social media companies to do more to remove racists from their platforms.
Facebook promised to disable accounts that send abuse direct messages but declined to say why it had decided to act now after players had asked for tougher action for years. Players in England boycotted social media for 24 hours in 2019 for racism, but now Facebook is providing more detailed information on the action taken.
“We have always been committed to combating hatred and racism on our platform. We take this issue very seriously,” said Fadzai Madzingira, manager for Facebook content guidelines, in a statement.
Players like Chelsea defender Reece James and Manchester United’s sister Lauren James have criticized Instagram’s handling of racial abuse.
“Instagram doesn’t even have a clear option for racism in its reporting system,” said Lauren James after highlighting the abuse she received last week.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said tougher measures need to be taken.
“For too long, the world’s most popular and powerful social media companies have not been able to handle the torrent of horrific racial attacks on their platforms,” said Dowden. “I applaud the improved guidelines from Instagram, but racial abuse is still a fact for too many people and more needs to be done across the board to stamp it out.
“We are introducing a new age of accountability for these companies with our upcoming Online Security Act. This could result in heavy fines for companies that do not clearly and transparently protect their users.”
The global footballers union FIFPRO said it failed to “strongly and clearly” tackle racism on platforms like Instagram and Twitter.
“Football players who publicly and eloquently denounced online abuse have helped highlight the severity and repetition of these attacks,” said FIFPRO General Secretary Jonas Bär-Hoffmann. “All of these actors will receive our continued support to point out the lack of care and adequate protection offered by social media companies.
“We now urgently need both national and international authorities to step in and work together to get these companies to clean up their platforms and end the stream of hideous discrimination that continues to contaminate both public channels and private lives on every continent.”
Instagram has offered to listen to ongoing concerns.
“We know more needs to be done and we will continue to work with clubs, players and the entire industry to address this issue together,” said Madzingira.
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