The Government plans to extend football banning orders for online racism, while social media giants face huge fines if they fail to remove abuse from their platforms, Prime Minister Boris Johnson revealed on Wednesday.
Johnson announced the changes to MPs in the wake of racist messages being sent to England players Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka after they missed penalties in the Euro 2020 final shootout defeat to Italy on Sunday.
Johnson warned that social media companies would face fines amounting to 10 per cent of their global revenue if they did not act in removing hate and racist abuse from their platforms.
The Prime Minister told MPs the Government is taking action, saying: “Last night I met representatives of Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram, and I made it absolutely clear to them that we will legislate to address this problem in the Online Harms Bill.
“And unless they get hate and racism off their platforms, they will face fines amounting to 10 per cent of their global revenues – we all know they have the technology to do it.”
“I utterly condemn and abhor the racist outpourings that we saw on Sunday night,” he added.
“So what we are doing is taking practical steps to ensure that the football banning regime is changed so that if you are guilty of racist abuse online on football, then you will not be going to the match.
“No ifs, no buts, no exemptions, no excuses.”
Banning orders allow magistrates to stop individuals from going to matches in the UK if they are convicted of relevant offences, but currently do not cover incidents online.
They can last between three and 10 years and are largely imposed for violent and public disorder offences.
Johnson defends Patel in row with Starmer
Johnson, however, rejected a call by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer to condemn Home Secretary Priti Patel after she dismissed the team’s actions in taking the knee at the start of matches as “gesture politics”.
You don’t get to stoke the fire at the beginning of the tournament by labelling our anti-racism message as ‘Gesture Politics’ & then pretend to be disgusted when the very thing we’re campaigning against, happens. https://t.co/fdTKHsxTB2
— Tyrone Mings (@OfficialTM_3) July 12, 2021
England and Aston Villa defender Tyrone Mings was angered by Patel calling the racist abuse suffered by his team-mates disgusting after criticising the taking of a knee earlier in the tournament.
“The Home Secretary has faced racism and prejudice all her career of a kind he can never imagine. And she has taken practical steps to get black and minority officers in record numbers,” the Prime Minister said.
The Labour leader responded by accusing the Government of trying to “stoke a culture war”, only to realise that they were on the wrong side.
“Why will the Prime Minister refuse time and time again – even now – to condemn those who boo our players for standing up against racism?” Sir Keir asked.
“What is it that this England team symbolises that this Conservative Party is so afraid of?”
‘Racism is a problem in the UK’
The Prime Minister also said he is committed to stamping out racism in the UK, telling the Commons he does think it “is a problem in the UK”.
He was responding to a question from SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford, who asked: “This UK Government’s own report on racism, the Sewell report, said that there was no systemic problem in the UK. I think the England men’s football team would beg to differ.
“After the shocking racism on show over the last week does the Prime Minister still stand by his Government’s belief that systemic racism is not a problem that exists in the United Kingdom?”
Mr Johnson replied: “I do think racism is a problem in the United Kingdom and I believe it needs to be tackled, and it needs to be stamped out with some of the means I have described this morning.”
He also said the Government is the “most diverse in the history of this country”, adding: “If you are a young person growing up in a black or ethnic minority group in this country we are the party that represents hope and opportunity in this country.”
Man arrested for posts directed at England stars
A man has been arrested after social media posts were directed towards England players following the Euro 2020 final, Greater Manchester Police (GMP) said.
The suspect, 37, from Ashton upon Mersey, arrived at Cheadle Heath police station this morning and was arrested on suspicion of an offence under Section 1 of the Malicious Communications Act. He remains in custody for questioning.
A post was made on the evening of July 11 following the Italy v England match at Wembley.
Detective Inspector Matt Gregory of GMP’s Trafford division said: “The actions of a small number of people overshadowed what was a hugely unifying event for our country on Sunday evening.
“We are firm in our commitment, any racist abuse whether online or off is not acceptable.
“We now have one man in custody and our investigation continues.”