New Twitter analysis tells us much of what we largely suspected


Twitter has revealed that tweets from the UK were 'by far' the largest contributor to the racist abuse faced by England players on its platform, following their Euro final disappointment against Italy.

11 people have since been arrested amid an ongoing investigation of the abuse faced by players. The social media giant revealed as many as 1622 tweets were removed in the 24 hours immediately after the game.

They claim over 90% were 'proactively' removed from the platform but stressed that 'new vectors of abuse' had seen them rely on trusted partners as part of their strategy to rid the platform of online hate. 

"On the night of the Euros final, our automated tools kicked in immediately, and ensured we identified and removed 1,622 abusive tweets in the 24 hours that followed," Twitter UK stated.

"Only two per cent of the tweets we removed generated more than 1,000 impressions."

"While many have quite rightly highlighted the global nature of the conversation, it is also important to acknowledge the UK was - by far - the largest country of origin for the abusive tweets we removed."

‘ID verification unlikely to prevent abuse’ 

Twitter analysis also concluded that online ID verification would not have been a panacea for preventing the abuse witnessed last month.

They stated: "Our data suggests that ID verification would have been unlikely to prevent the abuse from happening, as of the permanently suspended accounts, 99 per cent of account owners were identifiable.”

Central to public discourse following the abuse has been the call for mandatory online identification on the social media platform. Tired of the hostile online environment which has become the norm, many have now moved to see new measures implemented. 

A petition to make verified ID a requirement for opening a social media account has since gained over 690,000 signatures. The government’s response has been to stress caution, unlike the matter of voter identification, there has been an acknowledgement over potential drawbacks to the measures.

The government recognises concerns linked to anonymity online, which can sometimes be exploited by bad actors seeking to engage in harmful activity. However, restricting all users’ right to anonymity, by introducing compulsory user verification for social media, could disproportionately impact users who rely on anonymity to protect their identity.

These users include young people exploring their gender or sexual identity, whistleblowers, journalists’ sources and victims of abuse. Introducing a new legal requirement, whereby only verified users can access social media, would force these users to disclose their identity and increase a risk of harm to their personal safety.

Furthermore, users without ID, or users who are reliant on ID from family members, would experience a serious restriction of their online experience, freedom of expression and rights. Research from the Electoral Commission suggests that there are 3.5 million people in the UK who do not currently have access to a valid photo ID.

In a PMQs before the summer recess, the Prime Minister stressed that fans guilty of online abuse would be banned from attending future games. The constant abuse despite the ease of identification not only suggests there are a number of fans who are not especially bright, but that there are also many who are likely emboldened to act in this manner. The Prime Minister and his Home Secretary have both been accused of encouraging this environment by several of online spectators.

Season set to begin

With the top-flight football season set to begin on Friday, the punishment to ban match-going spectators guilty of racist abuse has been welcomed by campaigners. They have viewed the measure as a long time coming, but the Twitter UK analysis of the racist abuse received by players is further evidence that it remains the debilitating aspect at the centre of the English game. Largely because it permeates through so many facets of the English football infastructure, and partly because the pace of change is often too slow.

Based on their rhetoric and increasingly their conduct, it would appear that this is now being acknowledged as a matter of fact by football's authorities. However, when we look at the dugout durings this week's fixtures, there will be yet another reminder of the barriers rooted in racial prejudice that exist within the game.

Despite the new measures, there are presently no guarantees that similar episodes of abuse seen during the Euros and throughout last season will not be present when top-flight football resumes this Friday.

Mayowa Ayodele