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Advertisers demand social networks tackle racist abuse ahead of new football season

An open letter from a group of advertisers and top brands lays out a series of demands to the leaders of social media platforms

A coalition of advertisers and top brands has penned an open letter condemning how top social networks enabled racist abuse to be sent to England players. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter are those under the microscope as once again brands consider a boycott.

Led by the Conscious Advertising Network, an open letter lays out a series of demands to the leaders of the social media quartet demanding improved policing of their platforms. Adding fuel to the flames, Instagram recently tried to explain why sending monkey emojis to players did not count as racist abuse.

This follows on from the stream of racist abuse posted to players after England’s defeat in the Euro 2020 final. It has elicited an open letter jointly signed by the IPA, R/GA London and the International Advertising Association (IAA), among others.

In strong words, the group call out a “lack of adequate action” from any of the addressees to combat online hate speech, holding Mark Zuckerberg, Adam Moserri, Evan Spiegel and Jack Dorsey directly responsible for “horrendous levels of abuse” directed toward England players.

Mars, KFC and British Gas are the biggest brands offering their signatures so far, but the group is pushing for more of Facebook’s 10m advertisers. Pulling no punches, the authors write: “Racist abuse causes trauma, not only to those who are targeted, but it also has a painful and triggering impact on others who view this online.

“When offensive, dehumanizing and threatening messages are sent to players, it’s not just a question for the social media platforms but those who fund them as well. We as brands, agencies, trade bodies and civil society organizations who work closely with teams and players have a voice, opportunity and responsibility to not stay silent.”

Harnessing their collective voice to affect change, the signatories lay out four demands to ensure social media can be kept safe for everyone, starting with updated hate speech policies to include the use of emojis to demonstrate zero tolerance.

The voluntary grouping goes on to insist that the chief execs advertise a new zero-tolerance approach directly to their users and enforce these standards by reporting crimes to the police, employers and relevant football clubs directly.

Finally, the authors ask that any content flagged as potentially racist be paused for validation by human moderators to prevent unsavory remarks from slipping through the net.

Setting a deadline of August 13 to enact these changes, to coincide with the kick-off of the 2021/22 Premier League season, the lobbyists also call for the advertising industry as a whole to show solidarity by coming together to find their own solutions to the problem.

The intervention follows a heartfelt plea from ITV yesterday for the nation to unite against the ugly face of racism.

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