THIS weekend will see much of English sport take part in a social media blackout in a move also supported by broadcasters and media organisations.
The blackout runs from 3pm this afternoon (Friday) until 11.59pm on Bank Holiday Monday evening. The aim is to encourage social media companies to take a stronger stance on online abuse, particularly of a racist nature, directed at players.
Although the Observer will continue to update our websites and social media accounts throughout the weekend, I will observe the blackout on my personal social media accounts because enough is enough.
Social media is for everyone, not the privileged few.
Whether you are 18 or 80, male or female, rich or poor, footballer or dustman, you should be able to connect to the world around you without fear of bullying or abuse no matter your skin colour or sexuality.
Sadly this is not the case for so many, particularly black sportsmen who have to endure the most horrific abuse and even death threats.
Not enough is being done to catch the culprits who think being racist is acceptable just because a footballer had a bad game.
Not enough is being done to ban those who think a death threat is acceptable because their team didn’t get three points at the weekend.
Not enough is being done to stamp out the sexism, the bullying, the homophobia which is still so prevalent on these platforms.
With free speech comes a responsibility to consider the impact on what you write, although the status footballers enjoy means their complaints about illegality on the internet are taken more seriously it also means they are exposed to more than their fair share of idiots, bigots and sad little boys and girls who confuse hate speech with ‘bantz’.
This issue doesn’t simply affect footballers though it’s to do with everyone.
If we can put a man on the moon and tackle the worst health crisis the world has seen in over a century then surely these tech giants can police their sites better.
If we care about the world around us, we need to call out social media abuse whenever and wherever we see it.