Call it Out Leeds: Social media platforms could be fined for failing to remove racist abuse

Social media giants could face multi-million pound fines for failing to crack down on racist abuse on their platforms, the Culture Secretary said.

Friday, 30th April 2021, 11:45 am

The sporting world will hold a four-day blackout on their channels starting on Friday afternoon, with many players, clubs and broadcasters joining forces to say that online abuse is not acceptable.

Two Leeds United supporters’ groups have thrown their weight behind the club’s social media boycott this weekend.

A bill on Online Safety is due before Parliament this year and is expected to set out a duty of care to which tech companies must adhere, with large financial penalties for those found to be in breach.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

eeds United and the rest of English football will unite for a social media boycott in response to racist abuse directed at players and others. Pic: Getty

The Yorkshire Evening Post's Call It Out campaign has called on social media platforms to take accountability seriously, sharing real-life experiences of online abuse suffered by people in Leeds.

The abuse has left scars on people from all walks of life in the city.

Children and young people have been left feeling suicidal by cyberbullying, local MPs have received death and rape threats and the leader of the Black Lives Matter movement in Leeds has faced "horrifying" racist abuse.

Now, writing in the Sun, Oliver Dowden suggested that racist abuse will be among the harms that social media companies have to stamp out.

The Yorkshire Evening Post's Call It Out campaign has highlighted the devastating effect of racist abuse on people in Leeds

He wrote: “Under the legislation, if social media companies do not keep their promises to users by, for example, failing to remove racist abuse, they will face severe sanctions.

“We could see fines of up to ten per cent of annual global turnover. For a company such as Facebook or YouTube, that could be billions.”

He added that the threat of enforcement would get social media companies to act.

Meanwhile, Facebook’s vice president for northern Europe Steve Hatch wrote in the Daily Telegraph said his firm has clear rules against hate speech, but “zero tolerance doesn’t mean zero incidence”.

He added: “We can’t stop people from being prejudiced, or from typing abuse into their phone, but we can take steps to strengthen our rules, and improve our detection and enforcement.”

He said work to bring about change must also take place offline, writing: “No single thing will fix this challenge overnight but we’re committed to doing what we can to keep our community safe from abuse.

“We’ll continue our work with the football industry, Government and others to effect change through action and education.”

Support the YEP and become a subscriber today. Enjoy unlimited access to local news and the latest on Leeds United, With a digital subscription, you see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Click here to subscribe.