French soccer league slams 'climate of hate' on social media

·2 min read

PARIS — The French soccer league has called on Facebook and Twitter to take action to eliminate racist abuse that has created a “climate of hate” on social media.

The LFP had a meeting this week with representatives of Facebook and Twitter to consider new measures because it said players, coaches and their families are regularly the targets of hateful and racist comments.

In an announcement on Friday, the league said it has created a working group with Facebook to accelerate existing measures and to devise “new concrete solutions." It pledged to publicly disclose actions that it takes.

The announcement follows steps taken by the leaders of English soccer. They wrote directly to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook chairman Mark Zuckerberg to demand more robust action to eradicate racism and for users’ identities to be verified.

“Football creates a unique social bond," French league president Vincent Labrune said in a statement. "We must better protect it and counter the hate speech that is worsening on social networks. Enough is enough — urgent action is needed.”

Facebook, which owns Instagram, said it would establish a training plan for clubs and players to learn about the existing tools available on its platforms to fight the abuses, according the the league.

The league said “other initiatives with the two major social networks” would follow. No other specifics were given.

“We have clear rules against these abuses and we're constantly improving our technology to proactively detect them as quickly as possible,” said Laurent Solly, Facebook’s regional vice-president . “We are developing new security tools to prevent these offensive comments or to block the people who have broken our rules.”

Solly said there is “still a lot to do.”

"This is why we are renewing our commitment to work alongside the LFP, players, clubs and French football so that collectively we continue to fight even more effectively against online hatred," Solly said.

Damien Viel, managing director of Twitter France, added: “We are firmly committed to assuring that the football conversation on Twitter is safe for fans, players and all concerned.” He said Twitter would continue to work with the LFP and others "to combat this abject behaviour , online and offline.”

However, world players union FIFPRO says Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have “ largely failed ” to fix the problem.

“We now urgently need both national and international authorities to step in and collaborate to make these companies clean up their platforms and remove the stream of abhorrent discrimination that continues to contaminate both public channels and personal lives on every continent,” FIFPRO general secretary Jonas Baer-Hoffmann said Feb. 8.

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The Associated Press