Anton Ferdinand says social media companies must do more in tackling online racist abuse

Former West Ham and England defender Anton Ferdinand has said that social media companies must do more in tackling online racist abuse.

Ferdinand was speaking at the Home Affairs Committee inquiry into online abuse on Wednesday.

The committee took evidence from Ferdinand and fellow former players Lianne Sanderson and Marvin Sordell, as well from Instagram and Twitter.

The aim of the session, according to Parliament, was to “examine the prevalence of online racist abuse against Black, Asian and minority ethnic footballers”.

Ferdinand evidence on online abuse

In his evidence, Ferdinand questioned why social media companies are waiting to act against online abuse, and asked whether it would take a tragedy for them to act.

He said: “It [social media] is built to make you addicted to it, you can’t put it down once you start scrolling. There is a mental health issue of not being able to escape it.

“My worry is, what are the social media companies waiting for? Are they waiting for a high-profile footballer to kill themselves, or a member of their family to commit suicide? Is that what they’re waiting for? Because if they’re waiting for that, it’s too late.

“This comes down to if they really want to make change? So far, their words are that they want to but their actions are different.”

When asked by Home Affairs Committee member, Diane Abbott, about whether he or someone on his behalf had reported the abuse, Ferdinand replied: “They have – and that’s myself, my family, my agency.

“It’s always the same response – either nothing happens or there’s some generic message that says they haven’t breached Twitter rules, which is, for me, a disgrace that it doesn’t breach the rules, but when something’s tweeted about what’s going on in the world today, it is automatically pinpointed and dealt with.

“When it’s someone being racially abused or any type of discrimination, all of a sudden it’s allowed. I don’t quite understand that.”

Sanderson convinced she has received abuse from same person on multiple accounts

In her evidence, Sanderson stated she believed that she had been sent by abuse by the same person on different accounts.

She explained: “You can take down profiles but then they can recreate one without even having to go through anything.

“I’m sure the same people that, time and time again, abuse me, they just recreate the account, because you can tell by the way they are writing.”

Sordell said that he wants people “to take this seriously for once and decide to stamp it out”.

He said: “We currently don’t see racism as a serious issue, being very frank.

“Racism isn’t seen as a serious issue. If it was, we wouldn’t be having this conversation every few months, every year, every decade, as we seem to be doing so.

“I’ve spoken about this, I can’t even tell you how many times, even just in the two years since I’ve retired, let alone across the period of my career and my involvement within football.

“We definitely need to actually make action. We actually have to take this seriously for once and decide to stamp it out, because as we’ve seen with other instances that have come up within football, things like the Super League for example, everybody within football was very quick to act, but that’s because it was something that affected the financial implications of so many entities within football.

“When things affect finances then people seem to react very quickly, whereas racism doesn’t affect finances, as of yet.

“That’s the issue I think that we face, and the problem that I think we face, is that because it isn’t affecting anything financial, we almost tend to brush it under the carpet and allow it just to build it up, and we’ll deal with it later and find a way to paper over the cracks for now to almost appease people until the next generation comes through, and they have to face the same problem through different means.

“This is why we need to stop having these conversations essentially, because I don’t want to keep having these conversations. Neither does Lianne, neither does Simone [Pound, PFA Director of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion] and neither does Anton.

“We want to stop having these conversations and for there to be action.”

Featured Image Credit: Getty