Gaming

EA Sports, Football Manager among those to boycott social media over hate speech

In cooperation with the English Premier League, the group will halt posts to social media over the weekend.

STADIO GIUSEPPE MEAZZA, MILAN, ITALY - 2020/12/20: Stefan de Vrij of FC Internazionale in action during the Serie A football match between FC Internazionale and Spezia Calcio. FC Internazionale won 2-1 over Spezia Calcio. (Photo by Nicolò Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Nicolò Campo/LightRocket/Getty Images

The world of football (erm, soccer) is banding together to protest against hate speech on social media platforms. FIFA, EA Sports, and Football Manager developer Sports Interactive are among those that have joined the English Football League in a social media boycott.

The boycott will run from Friday, April 30 through Monday, May 3, during which time the greater world of footballing will pause posting to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

In a blog post, England’s Premier League says that social media companies must do more to address online discriminatory abuse received by players and those in the broader community. It outlines some suggestions for platforms to address hate speech, including filtering out abusive content and preventing banned users from registering new accounts.

EA Sports has had its own problems, recently revealing it has banned more than 9,000 players from FIFA 21 over the use of inappropriate team names, like one called “I Kante breath.” Computers still aren’t smart enough to catch all these tricks on their own.

"Racist behaviour of any form is unacceptable and the appalling abuse we are seeing players receive on social media platforms cannot be allowed to continue,” said Premier League chief executive Richard Masters. “The Premier League and our clubs stand alongside football in staging this boycott to highlight the urgent need for social media companies to do more in eliminating racial hatred.”

Research finds that boycotts are rarely effective at hurting a company’s bottom line. But the social media companies have been working to address hate speech on their own as more people move to semi-private communication platforms, like Snapchat and Telegram.

New tools — Instagram last week introduced stricter penalties for abusive messages, and will let users choose to automatically filter direct messages in their inboxes using both the company’s list of harmful words and with user-generated lists of keywords. Instagram claims that blocked users will have a harder time contacting people under new accounts. Effectively much of what English football is asking for.

TikTok has added anti-bullying tools in the past month as well, giving users the option to screen comments left on their posts before they can be seen by anyone else. Twitter automatically hides some harmful tweets and gives users the ability to limit who can reply to their tweets.

Tools that require users add keywords or screen comments are flawed in that they put the responsibility on users to screen the speech that may be causing them harmful psychological effects. All of these platforms say manual tools are part of a multi-pronged strategy that includes automatic filtering.