10-year bans for racist abuse online to be introduced

Racial abusers and online trolls can be banned from football stadiums for up to 10 years under new laws.

Thursday, 15th July 2021, 4:44 pm
Boris Johnson said he was 'appalled by the abhorrent abuse' directed at England's footballers (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)
Boris Johnson said he was 'appalled by the abhorrent abuse' directed at England's footballers (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Boris Johnson yesterday (July 14) set out action to tackle online racist abuse in football following the abhorrent social media attacks on black England players after the Euro 2020 final.

The Government has announced it will amend legislation to extend the use of Football Banning Orders so online abusers can be banned from stadiums for up to 10 years, in the same way violent thugs are barred from grounds.

The Government, Premier League and football authorities say they will work together to help tackle all aspects of online abuse footballers are experiencing.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

It comes ahead of the introduction of the Online Safety Bill, a hotly-debated set of laws intended to make social media companies more responsible for content on their websites. It has been criticized by some as ‘overly simplistic’.

Following Sunday’s Euro Final at Wembley, three of England’s black players – Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka – were the target of online racial abuse for missing their penalties in the closing minutes of the tournament.

Boris Johnson said: “I was appalled by the abhorrent abuse directed towards a number of our footballers in the aftermath of Sunday’s game. More must be done to prevent people being bullied and trolled online.

“We are introducing legislation that will force social media companies to take responsibility and action where this vile behaviour exists on their platforms or face substantial financial penalties if they fail in their duty to do so.

“We are also working closely with the football and police authorities to ensure we can track and take action against online abusers and will ban them from football grounds in the same way we would if they had committed these offences on our streets.”

The Prime Minister, as well as home secretary Priti Patel, were criticized this week for their history of refusing to support players ‘taking the knee’ before matches, a symbol of protest against racism.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “I've heard repeatedly from footballers about the devastating impact of racist abuse flooding their social media all hours of the day. It is clear it has a profound impact on them and their young fans. Enough is enough, it's time to clean up social media.

A football banning order is a civil order that is used as a deterrent to prevent yobs becoming involved in football-related disorder. They can last between three and 10 years. The Government says the change will be brought forward as soon as practical.

The draft Online Safety Bill was published in May and aims to require online companies to tackle abuse on their platforms by preventing harmful content and removing posts that are against their use policies.

It will also require them to stop repeat offenders from opening new accounts and make it easier for authorities to find people who set up anonymous accounts to abuse others, with fines imposed and criminal liability for companies who do not comply.

The bill has been criticized as being over simplistic in how it defines harm, as well as giving too much power over ‘policing the internet’ to US Silicon Valley firms.