Bukayo Saka backed as Islington calls for social media company action

England's Bukayo Saka (25) is dejected following the UEFA Euro 2020 Final at Wembley Stadium, London

England's Bukayo Saka (25) is dejected following the UEFA Euro 2020 Final at Wembley Stadium, London. Picture date: Sunday July 11, 2021. - Credit: PA

Bukayo Saka has won support from Islington Council, which has hailed the footballer for his "spark, energy and drive" in England’s Euro 2020 campaign.

The Arsenal winger has been subject to racist and other online abuse after missing the decisive penalty against Italy in Sunday’s final at Wembley Stadium. 

Town Hall leaders have thrown their support behind the 19-year-old who played a vital role in getting the Three Lions to their first Euro final. 

Council leader Kaya Comer-Schwartz has written an open letter to Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter chief Jack Dorsey to ask for those who post racist abuse to be banned and for greater protection for Black footballers. 

Kaya Comer-Schwartz. Picture: Islington Council

Kaya Comer-Schwartz. - Credit: Islington Council

Cllr Comer-Schwartz said: “Bukayo Saka has made himself a hero across the country in recent weeks with his performances at Euro 2020.

"He has lit up the tournament on and off the pitch and has such a bright future ahead of him.

“However, the horrific racist abuse faced by some members of the team on Sunday night has left a scar on the tournament and its legacy.

“It’s unacceptable that social media platforms allow racist abuse against Black people to continue, day after day, even when it is happening in plain sight and is called out again and again.” 

Cllr Comer-Schwartz said in her letter that Black individuals should not have to see racist abuse going unpunished.

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She called out government leaders for not speaking out against English fans who booed players kneeling in a gesture against racism. 

Boris Johnson this week claimed he "always said" it was wrong to boo players for taking the knee, but he has faced criticism for his slowness to react.

He said the forthcoming Online Harms Bill will use fines to force social media companies to take action.

Facebook – which owns Instagram – said it tries to remove harmful content as quickly as possible and encouraged people to use the tools it offers to block abuse.

“No one should have to experience racist abuse anywhere, and we don’t want it on Instagram,” a Facebook spokesperson said.

“We quickly removed comments and accounts directing abuse at England’s footballers last night and we’ll continue to take action against those that break our rules.

“In addition to our work to remove this content, we encourage all players to turn on Hidden Words, a tool which means no one has to see abuse in their comments or DMs.

“No one thing will fix this challenge overnight, but we’re committed to keeping our community safe from abuse.”

In response to the latest online attacks, Twitter labelled the abuse “abhorrent”, saying it has “absolutely no place on Twitter”.

“In the past 24 hours, through a combination of machine learning-based automation and human review, we have swiftly removed over 1,000 tweets and permanently suspended a number of accounts for violating our rules – the vast majority of which we detected ourselves proactively using technology,” the company said in a statement.

“We will continue to take action when we identify any tweets or accounts that violate our policies.

“We have proactively engaged and continue to collaborate with our partners across the football community to identify ways to tackle this issue collectively and will continue to play our part in curbing this unacceptable behaviour — both online and offline.”

Saka, who has Nigerian heritage, has support from England manager Gareth Southgate, who said the winger has the “character” to emerge from the debacle unscathed. 

Cllr Comer-Schwartz added: “Bukayo - we are so proud of you. You are a force on the pitch, and an inspiration to us all. We will always stand with you.”

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