Facebook says it’s “horrified” by recent racist abuse that footballers have received, and has vowed to act quicker to shut down the accounts of offenders.
Manchester United players Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Axel Tuanzebe and Lauren James have all been targeted recently, as have James’ brother - Chelsea defender Reece - and West Brom midfielder Romaine Sawyers.
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Facebook, which owns Instagram, has acted on calls from clubs to do more to tackle the problem.
“I am horrified that they have to deal with that sort of abuse and as a company we take it very seriously”, Fadza Madzingira, content policy manager at Facebook told the Press Association.
"We've always had rules around people who abuse our community standards in Instagram direct messaging, specifically.
"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.
"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."
Instagram says it has a number of tools which can filter words, phrases and emojis so that the user does not see vile messages sent to them, but has committed to work with ‘UK law enforcement authorities’ on hate speech, and will cooperate with requests for more information, depending on its stance to human rights.
Responding to requests from a number of clubs about whether accounts can be fully verified before signing up, Madzingira said it’s a tough one to put in practice across the world.
"I personally understand where the frustration comes from and the desire for people to 'need to use government IDs before they can open an account'.
"It is a debate we've had internally. There are a lot of difficulties - and not on a cost side - a lot of difficulties in terms of access when you think about who has identification and who doesn't.
"As a company, we've been really open, we want to have these conversations with governments. We want to be talking about regulation.
"We do think we're not just talking about online, we're talking about some of the behaviour offline and how it presents itself online.
"We think regulation is the appropriate discussion to be having right now."
Instagram says it’s continually working to eliminate hate speech on its platform, claiming that between July and September 2020, 6.5m such pieces were dealt with, including in direct messages, 95% of which were found before anyone had reported it.
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