Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta says footballers are ready and “waiting” to take part in another social media boycott if companies don’t clamp down on abuse on their platforms.
Earlier this year, players, clubs in the Premier League, English Football League, Women’s Super League and Women’s Championship, along with the game’s governing bodies and organizations such as Kick It Out, turned off their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts for three days.
In a joint statement at the time, the group said the boycott hoped to “emphasise that social media companies must do more to eradicate online hate.”
However, a number of players — including Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, Bukayo Saka and Wilfried Zaha — have since still be subjected to racist abuse on social media.
When asked if another boycott was something players would consider, Azpilicueta replied: “If we have to, yes of course. Social media is in our lives and as I said before, the clubs, Premier League, players, we are part of it.
“We have millions of followers from everywhere, but if it’s the only way that we can get the attention that we want and get the social media platform’s commitment to make it better, of course. You know, we did it a few months ago and now we are waiting [if] we have to do it again.
“In that moment, when we decided to boycott, it was something really quick. So it’s not something that you need a few months to work on. I think if the action is needed, yes [we will do it].”
Twitter and Facebook did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.
Social media identification
Azpilicueta believes “education of people is key” to making social media a safer environment, but says some level of identification is needed immediately to help monitor racist abuse and make the police’s job easier.
Last year, Facebook said to CNN that requiring users to provide ID could lead to exclusion for disadvantaged social groups which do not have easy access to official documentation, while the ID standard and verification processes differ greatly from country to country.
Azpilicueta says he understands that social media companies want as many people as possible using their platforms, but insists something needs to be done to make them safer now.
“As a parent talking, you know, my kids, they are already using technology, so they are very used to it and I wasn’t when I was a kid — who knows [what will happen] in a few years time,” he says.
“So for me, identification on social media should be key, to at least to have your name, your details and then if you do some kind of abuse or hate, they can prosecute you
“This, I think, will reduce [abuse] a lot, because we have seen many users hiding with different names and they just send messages.
“I think we have to create an environment where everybody is safer,” he adds. “We’ve seen that on social media you have very young kids up to whatever age, there is no limit.”
The 32-year-old Azpilicueta wants companies to take players’ views on board, as another boycott would be detrimental to the club’s ability to utilize one of social media’s greatest benefits — reaching supporters all over the world
“I hope that they listen because as well as the clubs, players have a huge amount of followers,” said Azpilicueta, who is involved in Chelsea’s No To Hate campaign.
“We did the boycott for three days a few months ago, but of course we use our social media as a club and as players to reach fans from everywhere, which is fantastic.
“You can engage with fans from everywhere in the world, but … they [social media companies] can do and they must do more to create a safe environment for not only the players, but even the fans.
“Sometimes we see abuse, hate between fans, which cannot happen. So football is a powerful tool to make it happen and we are working on this and hopefully we can win.”
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