Twitter “risks 30 years of progress against racism”

Twitter’s “failure” to tackle racist abuse six months after the Euro 2020 final threatens to set British society back 30 years, according to a prominent social commentator.

Sunder Katwala, director of independent think tank British Future, called on Twitter and the police to do more to protect people after being targeted alongside three England footballers last year.

Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka were bombarded with racist abuse on social media after missing penalties in the shootout loss to Italy at Wembley on July 11 last year.

Police subsequently arrested 11 people and Twitter deleted more than 1,900 tweets.

England footballers Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka have been targeted after Euro 2020 final (Mike Egerton / PA)

Six months later, Mr. Katwala, a lifelong Everton fan, accused Twitter of a “massive failure” in resolving the issue.

In November, the 47-year-old complained to the social media giant and filed a police report after being called a “popadom boy (sic)” by an anonymous user of the platform.

He told the PA News Agency: “At first I was pretty optimistic about this – it reflects my view since I was 16 that if you’re racist towards me, it’s more yours. problem as my problem.

“It’s a problem for Twitter, let Twitter fix it.

“And then there’s an element of exhaustion.”

So far, no charges have been laid and the character has “reappeared” 41 times since last July after being repeatedly suspended or disabled.

An incarnation of the character tweeted an image of Rashford, Sancho and Saka with their faces crossed out as recently as New Years Day.

Online abuse
British Future director Sunder Katwala called on Twitter and the police to do more to protect people after being targeted for racist abuse alongside three English footballers (British Future / PA)

As a teenager, Mr Katwala said he was the victim of incidents of overt racism inside football stadiums, which are no longer tolerated.

“We have seen big changes in our society which are now being reversed,” he said.

“The failure of the platform gives the impression that it has put us all back 20/30 years and deprived us of this progress against racism.

“It wasn’t just that the rules weren’t very good – they weren’t enforced.”

He added: “You can be banned for life from a football stadium, but you can come back as many times as you want on Twitter.”

With prominent British personalities just a click of a mouse away, the trolls are “stirring” and even enjoying the notoriety that comes with the game “Whack-a-mole”, he suggested.

Technology Fund
Personalities are just “one click away” on Twitter

The government’s online security bill could go further to make Twitter a safe public space for all, he said.

When asked if people should vote with their feet, Mr Katwala said: “Earplugs for minorities are not the right thing to do.

“I think you have to hold on and clean up the space, not say ‘I don’t want to be in a space if these people are there.’

Scotland Yard said on Tuesday that 16 references had now been made about people who had been subjected to racist abuse online, leading to a charge.

Among the others, two were released under investigation, one referred to a team of juvenile offenders, four subject to “community resolutions”, six released without further action and one remand was still under investigation.

A Twitter spokesperson said, “It is our top priority to keep everyone who uses Twitter safe and free from abuse.

“We recognize and wish to reiterate our commitment to ensure that Twitter does not become a forum that facilitates abuse and we continue to examine our own policy approaches and ways to enforce our rules quickly and at scale.

“We have clear rules in place to deal with threats of violence, abuse, harassment and hateful conduct.

“It is also against our rules to circumvent the permanent suspension and we take action when we identify any tweets or accounts that violate Twitter rules.”

According to Twitter, circumventing enforcement action by creating or reassigning accounts to replace or imitate a suspended account will result in permanent suspension.

After the Euro 2020 final, the platform worked to reduce the burden on victims of reporting abuse by using automated tools to detect and delete offending tweets.

Among other measures, Twitter has worked to reduce the visibility of content so that victims of abuse and fewer people see it.