Bukayo Saka, a player on England’s national football team said in an Instagram post Thursday that social media platforms did not do enough to prevent the racist abuse he and his teammates were subjected to after the team’s loss to Italy.
“To the social media platforms @instagram @twitter @facebook I don’t want any child or adult to have to receive the hateful and hurtful messages that me Marcus and Jadon have received this week,” Saka wrote. “I knew instantly the kind of hate that I was about to receive and that is a sad reality that your powerful platforms are not doing enough to stop these messages.”
Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, and Saka, who are Black, were among England’s players to participate in a penalty shootout to decide the winner of the UEFA Euro 2020 championship match on July 11th. England ultimately lost, and the players ‘social media accounts, including Twitter and Facebook-owned Instagram, were flooded with racist comments and messages not long after the game ended
Instagram head Adam Mosseri told a BBC reporter on Wednesday that Instagram had mistakenly marked some of the comments aimed at the players that used monkey emojis as benign “which they are absolutely not.”
We have technology to try and prioritize reports, and we were mistakenly marking some of these as benign comments, which they are absolutely not. The issue has since been addressed, and the publication has all of this context.
— Adam Mosseri (@mosseri) July 14, 2021
Twitter said Monday it had removed more than 1,000 tweets and suspended some users for violating its policies against harassment and hateful content; Facebook said it had suggested using Instagram’s hidden words tool to remove the objectionable comments from being visible.
But as Saka wrote in his post, he knew the hateful posts were coming, yet Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other social platforms typically seem to be in reaction mode when incidents like this occur, rather than taking steps to prevent abuse from happening in the first place. It was unfortunately not hard to predict that there would be racist reactions after the end of the match: Throughout the UEFA tournament, fans at Wembley Stadium had booed their home team when players kneeled before games as an anti-racism protest. England manager Gareth Southgate said last month that fans booing England players kneeling before a friendly match against Austria felt like it was critical of the team’s Black players.
It shouldn’t be up to the targets of abuse to push for better responses from social platforms, especially when everyone except the platforms themselves seem to know what’s coming.