racism in football - black lives matter

Racism in Football: A Potential Solution for Social Media Trolls

All of the black and brown professional footballers continuing to perform and compete at the highest levels in today’s game deserve massive plaudits. Marcus Rashford, Romelu Lukaku, Raheem Sterling, Axel Tuanzebe, James Tavernier, Antonio Rudiger and Callum Hudson-Odoi are just a tiny fraction of the players who deserve a mention. One thing they all have in common, other than being leaders in their field (pun intended), is that they’ve all suffered from racial abuse in recent times.

Racism in football has been rife for a long time but recently, it appears to have gotten worse. In September 2020, Kick it Out (the biggest organisation in the UK working to ‘challenge discrimination’ within football) reported a 42% increase of incidences of racial abuse during the 2019-20 season, despite many of those games being played behind closed doors. Why?

“It is simply too easy to racially abuse footballers in the current climate.”

The answer is social media. Online platforms that these players are actively engaged in leave them vulnerable to all sorts of racial abuse. Whether via press articles with negative racial undertones or direct hate messages from opposition fans (or their own fans), racism seems to rear its ugly head everywhere in the ‘beautiful game’. As a passionate black football fan, I’m sick and tired of hearing news about young talented black men experiencing racial abuse. It is simply too easy to racially abuse footballers in the current climate.

All that needs to be done for an idiot to spew some racist nonsense is for them to create a fake social media account and send some messages. There is near nothing to stop that. When the social media platforms in question take action, it’s not enough. If those accounts are reported and shut down, it’s far too easy for the racist to make a new account and abuse again. The authorities haven’t found an effective way to combat this problem yet.

I have thought about the problem for a while and I would like to suggest a solution. On Twitter, Instagram and other social media platforms there is a verification process for people of ‘public interest’; a blue tick to certify that a celebrity account is ‘active, authentic and notable’. However, there is little or no verification process at all for the average person signing up for these social media platforms, hence why there is a lack of accountability when said accounts start sending monkey emojis to a footballer after a bad game. Currently, the tweets by these faceless troll accounts hold the same weight as tweets from legitimate user accounts.

The solution I suggest is quite simple: sure up the verification process for social media accounts. Add a non-compulsory feature that allows the average person to verify their social media account using some form of official ID, such as a driving license or a passport. These verified accounts could carry a green tick to signify that the account has gone through the relevant verification process, therefore making the person behind the account liable for the things that come out of that account.

“verifiable accounts could act as a deterrent for racial abuse”

Hypothetically, the more people incentivised to opt in for these proposed ‘verified’ accounts, the easier it would be to differentiate real people from trolls or ‘bots’. Troll accounts are more difficult to identify, thus difficult to reprimand or punish. However, verifiable accounts could act as a deterrent for racial abuse, and abuse more generally, because the abuser would be identifiable in the real world. Furthermore, people with unverified accounts might feel a desire to verify their account in order to support the battle against social media trolls.

I’m well aware that these suggestions may not eliminate the racism coming from troll accounts but it may go some way in limiting the impact that they have. In truth, I don’t know whether my suggestion could effectively help to solve the issues of racism in football today, but to be honest, that’s not my job.

At this point, I’m just tired of seeing young black and brown men with incredible footballing talent continue to be under-appreciated, while simultaneously having to deal with unwarranted racial abuse.

Something needs to change and fast.

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