'It happens every day': Zaha calls on social media companies to act over online racism

The Professional Footballers’ Association and Kick It Out have called for tighter regulation of social media companies after Sheffield United’s David McGoldrick became the latest Premier League player to reveal he has been subjected to racist abuse online.

The Republic of Ireland international, who scored twice in Saturday’s 3-0 win over Chelsea, wrote “2020 and this is life” as he shared a screengrab of a racist message sent to him. It came less than 24 hours after a 12-year-old boy was arrested by West Midlands Police after racist messages were sent to Crystal Palace forward Wilfried Zaha.

He has since been released as they continue to investigate, with both incidents understood to have been reported to the Premier League’s online abuse reporting system that was launched last month after racist abuse that was directed at Ian Wright. In a statement, the PFA described the incidents as “sickening and abhorrent” and said that players were still the “relentless” targets for online abuse.

“Incidents, such as this, only strengthen the case for tighter regulation of social media companies,” it said.

“We call on the authorities to accelerate the process of appointing Ofcom as the regulator to oversee the Online Harms legislation.”

Sanjay Bhandari, the chair of Kick It Out, added: “Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are like the Wild West. To address this we need social media companies to do more. We also need a concerted and sustained effort between government, law enforcement and the football authorities to prioritise the gathering of evidence and prosecution of online hate. We need to show the online haters that they will be tracked and that there are consequences for their actions. At the moment, they act with complete impunity.”

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Since October 2018, Ivory Coast forward Zaha has reported racist online abuse on three occasions but he admitted in a statement on Twitter that “it happens every day”.

“People need to understand that whatever your age, that your behaviour and your words come with consequences and you cannot hide behind social media,” he wrote.

“It is important social media platforms do as they did yesterday and seek out these individuals and remove them. This is not the first time I have received messages like this, nor am I the only player to receive messages like this – it happens every day.

“I want to thank everyone for the love and support but enough is enough! It is not enough to be disgusted by these messages I received and move on. It isn’t enough to just say #notoracism. We need action, we need education, things need to change.”

A statement from Sheffield United also called for change and said the club would “do all we can to find the perpetrator of this disgusting message”.

“We will work with the relevant authorities to ensure the person behind this post is brought to justice. This cannot continue.”



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