Oxford United will be truly united this weekend when the club joins football’s social media boycott to try and help stop online abuse.
The official Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts will be silent from Friday afternoon to midnight on Monday as will all player accounts, all staff accounts and the official channels from the Oxford United Women’s team, Academy and Community Trust.
The FA, Premier League, EFL, FA Women’s Super League, FA Women’s Championship, PFA, LMA, PGMOL, Kick It Out and the FSA will be similarly silent to emphasise that social media companies must do more to eradicate online hate, while highlighting the importance of educating people in the ongoing fight against discrimination.
Boycott action in isolation will, of course, not eradicate the scourge of online discriminatory abuse, but it will demonstrate that the game is willing to take voluntary and proactive steps in this continued fight.
Forward Rob Hall spoke with great dignity on the matter when we asked him about it
“Social media used to be a different place” he said. “At the moment, if I’m honest, it’s not nice. It’s just too easy for people to get on there and slate whoever they want to slate; not just footballers, anyone whether you know them or not. You can have a go at anyone’s appearance or actions and for me that’s one of the biggest coward things out there but the question is when these companies are going to do something about it?
“It’s not banter. It’s different between your actual friends. You have an idea of their character then. But on social media it is people you don’t know and you never know how hard what you say is going to hit them. I have had plenty of tweets and comments on Insta that I would just love to reply to but I have to stay silent a lot of the time. But there are so many people out there who get away with all sorts.
“You don’t know how strong people are when you are criticising them, and that’s everything whether it’s racial abuse or the colour of your hair, and whether they are senior footballers or just young kids; how do you know how that person is going to take it? I don’t know what people get out of things like that: does it make them feel like a bigger person? I think it’s cowardly and something has to happen.
“Why should I come away from social media myself because other people can’t behave themselves? It’s like teams walking off the pitch if their player is racially abused. Why should I have to walk off the pitch because someone is doing that? I should stand tall and do my job which is playing football. But if you don’t take a stand together then what else can you do?
“We have to do something and I’m happy that football is trying to take action and make people at least think about their actions. If it helps people, and it’s not just about football players, It’s good that football is doing something. You saw with the Super League how football can get together and work together across the whole game. So why can’t we do it with other things like this toxic nonsense that is happening on social media? We have seen how powerful football can be so why not stand up to it together?”
Along with all of football Oxford United urge the UK Government to ensure its Online Safety Bill will bring in strong legislation to make social media companies more accountable for what happens on their platforms, as discussed at the DCMS Online Abuse round table last week.