Thierry Henry quits social media with online racism and abuse ‘too toxic to ignore’

Thierry Henry has announced his decision to quit social media describing racism and abuse online “too toxic to ignore”.

Manchester United midfielder Fred and England international Jude Bellingham were the latest footballers to suffer racist abuse on Instagram last weekend.

And former Arsenal and Barcelona striker Henry has called on the people in power to ensure social media is regulated to prevent racism and bullying taking place.

In a statement posted on Twitter and Instagram on Friday, Henry said: “Hi Guys. From tomorrow morning I will be removing myself from social media until the people in power are able to regulate their platforms with the same vigour and ferocity that they currently do when you infringe copyright.

“The sheer volume of racism, bullying and resulting mental torture to individuals is too toxic to ignore. There has to be some accountability.

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“It is far too easy to create an account, use it to bully and harass without consequence and still remain anonymous. Until this changes, I will be disabling my accounts across all social platforms. I’m hoping this happens soon.”

Henry, who last month left his managerial role at Montreal Impact, has 2.3million followers on Twitter and a further 2.7million on Instagram.

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Back in July, the World Cup winner took the knee for eight minutes and 46 seconds ahead of Impact’s MLS game with New England Revolution in a stand against racism following the recent death of George Floyd.

Instagram, who are owned by Facebook, took action on 6.6million pieces of hate speech between October and December last year but are eager to keep working with others to drive societal change.

A spokesperson for Facebook said: “We don’t want discriminatory abuse on Instagram and we remove it when we find it.

“Between October and December last year we took action on 6.6 million pieces of hate speech content on Instagram, 95 per cent of which we found before anyone reported it to us.

“We recently announced that we’ll take tougher action when we become aware of people breaking our rules in DMs and we have built tools to help people protect themselves. We’ll continue this work, and know these problems are bigger than us, so are working with others to collectively drive societal change through action and education.

“We’re committed to our ongoing work with the industry, government and others including our work with Kick It Out.”

Henry has called for more action from social media companies

Oliver Dowden, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said on Twitter: “No one should have to switch off social media because of abuse.

“Social media firms must do more to tackle this and we are introducing new laws to hold platforms to account. This is complex and we must get it right, but I’m absolutely determined to tackle racist abuse online.”

When asked for comment Twitter referred to a blog which read: “We have committed to Kick It Out’s initiative to tackle online hate, and look forward to continuing these discussions and developing solutions with our partners in football.

“We also continue to work with the government as they set out the requirements this year for technology companies like Twitter as part of their Online Harms regulatory proposals.

“Be it with football, civil society or government, we want the opportunity to explain our approach and hear ideas. We join our partners in condemning racism and we will continue to play our part in tackling this unacceptable behaviour – both online and offline.”


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