Arsenal chief 'optimistic' social media firms will tackle online abuse

Arsenal chief executive Vinai Venkatesham ‘optimistic’ that social media firms will tackle online abuse but warns the government must step in if they fail to adequately deal with the problem

  • Arsenal launched their own campaign this week to raise further awareness
  • There is frustration that not enough has been done to tackle the problem
  • The Government have already been a part of discussions with social media firms

Arsenal chief executive Vinai Venkatesham believes Government legislation will be the only answer if social media companies fail to produce the solutions to online abuse.

Arsenal launched their own campaign this week #StopOnlineAbuse, increasing further awareness of the issue, applying more pressure to social media companies to take action and underlining mounting and widespread frustrations that not enough has been done to tackle the problem.

Venkatesham said: ‘If the social media companies can’t demonstrate that they are doing enough in this space and can’t give enough positive answers, ultimately it ends up with legislation and ends up with the government.’

Arsenal players have held talks about boycotting social media in the fight to stop online abuse

The government have already been part of ongoing discussions with social media firms on the issue.

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden this week reiterated Government plans to fast-track online harms legislation which could result in huge fines for social media companies who fail to remove content that would be ‘illegal on the street.’

Venkatesham said: ‘This isn’t something that can be solved by Arsenal or solved by football.

‘It’s about trying to get all of those stakeholders around the table together to make some positive change. I’m one of life’s natural optimists and I have seen in the last months more steps forward from social media companies.

Arsenal’s Eddie Nketiah is one of several players to suffer abuse on social media this season

‘We have had contacts with some of the social media companies since the campaign went live saying that they want to talk to us which is positive. There are signs for optimism. I’ll be holding onto them and those green shoots. Hopefully in the coming months we can make some progress.’

Arsenal’s stars have been among those targeted and the problem and lack of significant action has driven Thierry Henry off social media.

Meanwhile, an Irish teenager escaped conviction in February after sending another Arsenal legend, Ian Wright, racist abuse on Instagram.

Venkatesham said: ‘We’re in 2021 and have someone like Ian Wright saying this is effectively becoming normalised. It made me really sit up and think about it.

The Arsenal boycott would also see the women’s side come off sites like Twitter and Instagram

‘Hundreds of people at the club and all 20 clubs across the Premier League, I think are getting to the point where just enough is enough.

‘My worry is that if this kind of abuse becomes normalised on social media, where else might it get normalised?

‘We know where we [football] have been in the past, so in terms of normalisation that is why I am so keen we find a way to stamp it out and get it back under control.

‘We need to do something about this and I’m not going to be proud if we are still talking about this issue in two years’ time.

‘There are lots of positives [to social media] but unfortunately there is a really dark, horrible disturbing and troubling part and I feel like we need to do everything we can to eradicate it.’

Arsenal chief executive Vinai Venkatesham wants social media firms to tackle online abuse

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