Twitter won't prevent anonymous users in fight against racism

Social media company says pseudonymity has been a vital tool for speaking out

Arsenal attacker Willian has revealed that he’s been sent racist abuse on social media. Photograph: Inpho

Arsenal attacker Willian has revealed that he’s been sent racist abuse on social media. Photograph: Inpho

 

Twitter has said “there is no room for racist abuse” on its platform — but confirmed it will not end the practice of allowing people to post from anonymous accounts.

Arsenal chief executive Vinai Venkatesham on Thursday described abuse to black players on various social media sites as the “biggest problem” in football, and said its impact “cannot be underestimated”.

And on Friday, Gunners winger Willian called for change after revealing he was called a “monkey” by two different Instagram users following Arsenal’s 1-1 Europa League draw against Benfica.

The Brazilian’s Arsenal team-mate Eddie Nketiah, Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Lauren James and Chelsea full-back Reece James — Lauren’s brother — are among the other footballers to reveal they have recently suffered racist abuse on social media.

A number of the abusive messages have come from accounts where an individual hides behind a pseudonym, and it has been repeatedly mentioned within football that social media companies should prevent anonymous users.

But defending its policy, Twitter said: “At Twitter, we are guided by our values, and never more so than when it comes to fundamental issues like identity.

“We believe everyone has the right to share their voice without requiring a government ID to do so. Pseudonymity has been a vital tool for speaking out in oppressive regimes, it is no less critical in democratic societies. Pseudonymity may be used to explore your identity, to find support as victims of crimes, or to highlight issues faced by vulnerable communities.

“Indeed, many of the first voices to speak out on societal wrongdoings, have done so behind some degree of pseudonymity — once they do, their experience can encourage others to do the same, knowing they don’t have to put their name to their experience if they’re not comfortable doing so.

“Perhaps most fundamentally of all — some of the communities who may lack access to government IDs are exactly those who we strive to give a voice to on Twitter.”

Willian shared screenshots of abusive messages on his Instagram Story on Friday and added the caption: “Something needs to change! The fight against racism continues.”

Twitter said there have been over 11million tweets about football in the UK since September, of which more than 5,000 have been removed for violating the social network’s rules.

The American company vowed to continue improvements on its own in-house technology, while working alongside the UK government and football authorities, including anti-racism group Kick It Out.

In the statement, Twitter continued: “We are acutely aware that many high-profile users can, at times, be particularly vulnerable to abuse and harassment.

“As long as any one person is targeted with abusive behaviour on our service, our work will not be done. We will continue to challenge this abhorrent behaviour at source along with our football partners and other social media companies.

“We join our partners in condemning racism and we will continue to play our part in tackling this unacceptable behaviour — both online and offline. We want to reiterate — there is no room for racist abuse on Twitter.”

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