Twitter and Facebook snub plea for abusive messages to be blocked

Football’s social media call rejected as Twitter and Facebook snub requests for abusive messages to be ‘filtered and blocked before being posted’

  • Football is facing a stand-off with social media giants who won’t change policy 
  • The sport wants abusive messages to be ‘filtered and blocked’ before being sent 
  • Twitter has indicated that demanding a block at source is unreasonable 
  • Online abuse including racist messages have spiked over the past few years 

One of the key demands made by English football in the fight against online abuse of players has already been rejected by Twitter and Facebook, who insist it would bring an unacceptable level of censorship.

In an open letter to Twitter and Facebook this week, the game’s governing bodies called for abusive messages to be ‘filtered and blocked before being sent or posted’ if they contain racist or discriminatory material.

But in a response which goes to the heart of the conflict between football’s wish to protect players and the tech giants’ desire to preserve free speech, Twitter has indicated that demanding a block at source is unreasonable. 

Football is facing an uphill battle to reduce online abuse of professional players after Facebook rejected one of its key demands to ‘filter and block’ abusive messages before they are posted

It also says the volume of daily messages is too high to make it achievable.

Facebook is thought to take the same view — but the company declined Sportsmail’s request to speak to one of their executives as part of an investigation into the abuse. 

Neither did the company respond to a written request for clarification on football’s written demands.

Despite billions of tweets being sent every day, word filter software does allow social media platforms to detect when an abusive message is about to be sent. 

The leaders of English football sent a letter to Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg (pictured) about levels of abuse on their platforms 

Twitter is currently trialling a prompt, asking users if they are sure they want to send a message which looks suspicious. It has not yet rolled this out, because it wants to be convinced that its automated artificial intelligence systems are not blocking acceptable messages.

But the view within the social media giants is that it is a big leap from asking a user to think twice and actually blocking a post altogether. It is impossible to ‘block’ a football fan saying something racist in a stadium.

The football authorities believe their requests are fair.

One of the major concerns about the online abuse is the number of children and youths contributing to it. Kick it out have staged racial awareness sessions with perpetrators.

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