English football has proposed a set of recommendations to further strengthen the Online Safety Bill and ensure victims of online abuse are adequately protected. The recommendations to the bill were released last week. Brentford FC fully endorses the position set out.
For some time, football, from the grassroots to the elite, has been impacted by vile online hate and discrimination. The language used is debasing, and often threatening and illegal. Similarly, emojis and memes are used to peddle legal but harmful messages.
The victims are not only football players, but also their families, referees, coaches, administrators, pundits, fans and others in the game. The abuse is not virtual: it is real. It is directed at real people who are real victims. Despite discussions with Twitter, Facebook and other social media companies for several years now, sadly there has been no real sign of significant proactive change that addresses the problem.
The Online Safety Bill represents the greatest opportunity so far to regulate social media companies and enforce real change. English football has created a list of proposals to strengthen the draft Online Safety Bill. These proposals were presented by former footballer and presenter Rio Ferdinand alongside Kick It Out Chair Sanjay Bhandari and FA Director Edleen John, on behalf of English football at the Joint Select Committee last Thursday, 9 September.
The recommended changes to the Online Safety Bill:
The football authorities also recommend that the Home Office should consider including football as a specific priority in a well-resourced Hate Crime Unit. Local police forces across the country and the Crown Prosecution Service would work hand-in-hand with football, the public authorities and social media companies to provide a proactive, joined-up approach to address online discrimination against any protected characteristics as specified under the Equality Act 2010. This would send a strong message about the intentions and direction of public policy, resource allocation and priorities in addressing this important issue - with the national game helping to change attitudes and behaviours across the whole of society.