Twitter has agreed to hold talks with a prominent sports nonprofit group to address rampant racism online just days after a football player for English club Chelsea was subjected to a barrage of insults for missing a penalty.
Troy Townsend, a campaigner with anti-discrimination group Kick It Out, told Sky Sports his organisation had rung the alarm bell shortly after the UEFA Super Cup final in the Turkish city of Istanbul on Wednesday.
No sooner had Chelsea striker Tammy Abraham, 21, missed the Blues’ fifth and final penalty in a nail-biting shoot-out against Liverpool, than the abuse began to pour in.
“We’ve had a bit of good news, which is that Twitter want to sit down and talk,” Townsend said on Thursday.
“That’s a start and what we asked for. Hopefully, there will be some actions coming out of those conversations,” he added.
“The fact that they have acknowledged communication from us and willing to talk means we open up the conversation. The proof will be in the pudding.”
— Marcus Rashford (@MarcusRashford) August 15, 2019
In a statement issued to the PA news agency, Twitter highlighted the recent “health update” post earlier this year, which noted that significant progress made when it comes to hateful conduct on the service.
“We continue to take action on any action that violates Twitter rules,” a spokesperson for the social media giant told PA.
“We welcome people to freely express themselves on our service, however, as outlined in our Hateful Conduct Policy, users cannot promote violence against, threaten or harass other people on the basis of race, ethnicity or other protected groups.
“We remain deeply committed to improving the health of the conversation on the service and in that respect, we continue to prioritise the safety of our users.”
Frank Lampard, a former midfielder idolised by Chelsea who has now become the London club’s new manager, said he felt “disgusted” when he learned about the racist abuse his player had received.
“I don’t know how it’s allowed on [social media] platforms, it’s too easy. Something needs to be done, as well as obviously changing mindsets completely,” he told reporters, as Manchester United players Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford posted online messages of support to Abraham.
A Chelsea spokesperson, meanwhile, denounced the racist abuse as “abhorrent,” adding that the club would take the strongest possible action against those involved in such behaviour.
The team had last month banned a supporter for life after he was found guilty of hurling racist slurs at Manchester City winger Raheem Sterling during a Premier League match in December 2018.
Five others were banned for periods ranging from one and two years.
Head up brother stand strong stand proud ❤ pic.twitter.com/FlJ52Nqj8n
— Jesse Lingard (@JesseLingard) August 15, 2019
Townsend said that it was critical to “let people understand that racist discrimination continues to happen”
“A lot of people feel it doesn’t exist,” he added. “If there wasn’t the actual evidence behind this, I would have nothing to talk about.”