It comes as Tony Burnett, head of anti-discrimination organization Kick It Out, said the lack of protection for black players and fans was of real concern
Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter could pave the way for a sharp rise in racial slurs against England players on social media during the World Cup, a former company executive has warned.
It comes after I reported warnings from activists and experts that repeated failure to enforce new laws to tackle online abuse will expose players to even greater levels of racial hatred during the 2022 World Cup in Qatar and surpass levels of abuse recorded during Euro 2020.
Bruce Daisley, the former head of Twitter’s operations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said I that the mass firing of employees, including moderators, who monitor Twitter for toxic content puts players at even greater risk of abuse.
“We are about to enter the world championship. The last few major football tournaments have been marked by abuse and toxicity, so it’s definitely questionable if we’ll see that return,” Daisley said I.
“If we see another flare up during the World Cup, another racist flare up, I think that’s going to be the last straw for a lot of people, so Twitter is giving a lot of people a big warning.”
The safety concerns for LGBTQ+ supporters attending the World Cup in Qatar have come under strong spotlight from the anti-discrimination organisation Kick It Out among those calling for enhanced inclusivity. But activists are also concerned that racial slurs could flare up during the tournament.
A Fifa study of over 406,987 social posts on Twitter and Instagram, targeting players and coaches for the Euro 2020 final (England vs. Italy) and Afcon 2022 final (Senegal vs. Egypt), found that racism comes after homophobia was the second most common form of abuse.
Tony Burnett, managing director of Kick It Out, said I “Without a doubt” things are getting worse with an annual increase in registered incidents of discrimination.
He called for better regulation of social media companies, which he says have done nothing to prevent a repeat of the scale of online abuse against black gamers.
“As far as we are concerned there is absolutely no protection whatsoever for our players or supporters when it comes to online abuse and this is really concerning that in 2022 we are essentially asking young men to go into an environment where they can do their We’re pretty sure a large percentage, especially black players, will experience some form of abuse,” Mr Burnett said.
In the 2021/22 season, Kick It Out received 109 reports of racism at grassroots level, up from 66 in the 20/21 season.
Mr Burnett believes racial slurs against players, staff and fans could exceed previously recorded levels due to inflammatory language from politicians and an inadequate response from social media companies.
He said I: “We have a lack of activity from social media organizations, we have a political climate that is shifting more and more to the right – and that is becoming a danger because it gives people permission to express views that we are all thoughts had been eliminated 20 years ago. You’re coming back now.”
He added: “I think the real danger is that it gets worse.”
Kick It Out has already seen evidence of such language being used by UK politicians who use incidents of physical assault at grassroots level “in conjunction with the type of terminology” used to negatively describe migrants.
Mr Burnett said: “I look at some of the rhetoric that our senior politicians are putting out, our home secretary uses words like invasion when it comes to people of color – and we see some of that playing out at the grass roots incidents that we are seeing now when it comes to discrimination.”
He added that he does not feel comfortable attending important matches in England, especially in unfamiliar surroundings, as black fans can be verbally and physically racially abused when black players make mistakes.
Racist slurs during Euro 2020 increased after Bukayo Saka, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho missed crucial penalties.
“[At] last year at the Euro 2020 final, I was at the stadium and I was actually dating a black colleague and immediately when that happens as a black person you automatically think, ‘Oh, what’s going to happen now?’ And I remember walking to the subway station and having this feeling.
“I remember getting lots of texts and messages from black friends who watched that game and left the bar they were in as soon as the finals was over because of concerns about the backlash. “
The Kick It Out boss, who is not taking part in the World Cup this year due to a lack of inclusivity, dismisses arguments that disagreements over LGBT rights are simply down to cultural differences.
Mr Burnett, who holds Barbados citizenship, said: “I would have the same conversation with you if we were to say that this tournament would be held in Barbados because every country where it’s illegal to be gay has a inclusion problem creates.”
Hundreds of England fans have decided to boycott the World Cup in Qatar because the country has a record when it comes to LGBT rights.
Whether motivated by protest or caution, Mr Burnett can relate to missing games due to discrimination.