Any football fan can attest to how toxic the sport’s fanbase can be. The 20/21 English Premier League season has especially been worse bearing in mind how dynamic the league has been. However, the varying performances of different players seem to have given fans of various clubs some sort of reason to be toxic enough to post racist comments about players on social media. Well, it looks like Instagram is finally stepping up to stamp out this evil.
Black football players have particularly been the scapegoats whenever their teams get to have bad matches, a situation that seems to be getting worse with every match week. A number of high-profile players that have been victim to this lately include Manchester United’s trio Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Axel Tuanzebe.
Chelsea’s young full-back Reece James has also been subject to racist slur in recent weeks. Let’s not also forget Crystal Palace’s skipper Wilfred Zaha who has complained of being abused on social media for years after almost every game.
In response to the outcry from the Premier League and players, Instagram has now pledged to start banning accounts being used to send abusive messages.
Speaking to the British press, Facebook’s content policy manager Fadzai Madzingira, expressed how “horrified” she was at the vitriol directed at footballers.
“Currently, we will set a specific ban or what we call a block for a set amount of time when someone violates those rules and we extend that time should they continue to do so,” she said.
“What we’re announcing today is that we’re taking tougher measures on people who violate those rules in Instagram direct messaging, so instead of just extending the time, we’ll be removing the accounts altogether.”
“That allows us to ensure that we have a lower tolerance for that sort of abuse in direct messaging and we’ll be closing those accounts more quickly in Instagram direct messaging than anywhere else on the platform.”
Apparently, a number of the accounts that are used are usually focused on just sending about. According to Madzingira, this is something that Instagram continues to work on as the company still points to comment filters that can limit the number of people that can comment on a post. This can also be used to block certain phrases and emojis from appearing.
“I think there is something about the world that we’re living in where someone can go from throwing a banana peel at a player on the pitch to suddenly also waking up and opening their accounts and using this online,” she added.
“What we’re trying to address is the online aspect but there’s definitely a broader conversation we need to have about what does racism in sport look like and how do we stop that sort of behaviour?”