Euro 2020: Boris Johnson to meet with social media firms over racist abuse of England players

‘Utterly disgraceful’ attacks came from ‘dark spaces of internet’, PM tells cabinet

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Tuesday 13 July 2021 13:13
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Today's daily politics briefing

Boris Johnson will tell social media companies at a meeting this afternoon the the government expects them to do “everything they can” to identify those responsible for racist abuse of England football players, Downing Street has said.

The prime minister told a meeting of cabinet that the attacks on Euro 2020 penalty-takers Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Buyako Saka were “utterly disgraceful” and had emerged “from the dark spaces of the internet”.

He said he would use today’s long-planned meeting with social media firms to reiterate the urgent need for action to deal with hatred on their platforms ahead of legislation in his Online Harms Bill, currently going through parliament

The PM told ministers that there was “no question” that the kind of abuse directed at the England players needs to be “stamped out”, said Mr Johnson’s official spokesperson.

He said attendees at today’s meeting - thought to include giants like Facebook and Twitter - will be told to “up their game to prevent online abuse now”.

The spokesperson defended home secretary Priti Patel, who has been accused by England squad member Tyrone Mings of “stoking the fire” of racism by dismissing the team’s decision to take the knee ahead of games as gesture politics.

“The home secretary has been clear there is no place for racism in our country and that’s why she is backing the police to hold those responsible accountable,” said the spokesperson. “The home secretary is working every day to clamp down on hate crime, racism and violence.”

Asked if social media companies should hand over details of the identities of those responsible for racist abuse, the spokesperson said: “Yes, we expect the social media companies to do everything they can to identify these people.”

The spokesperson said the government was in discussions with the FA on the “most suitable way” for the PM to thank the team and England staff for their efforts, but was unable to say whether this might involve a reception at 10 Downing Street.

Asked whether Mr Johnson would be happy for the players to take the knee at No 10 if invited, the spokesperson replied: “The prime minister has made his feelings clear that people should feel free to show their respect and show how much they condemn racism in this country in any way that they choose.”

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