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English soccer at breaking point over abuse on social media – CTV News

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Death threats. Racist abuse. Sexist slurs. And social media accounts allowed to stay active even after spreading bile.

English football has reached breaking point with players, coaches, referees and officials aghast at the ongoing proliferation of hate aimed at them on Instagram and Twitter.

A week that began with the Premier League’s most high profile referee reporting threats of physical harm to police and more Black players targeted by racist users, drew a pledge by Instagram to clamp down on hate but undercut by leniency shown toward abusers.

It’s why English football leaders have taken their concerns to the top of the social media giants, uniting for an unprecedented joint letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter counterpart Jack Dorsey that demands the platforms stop being “havens for abuse” by taking tougher action to eradicate the viciousness.

“Your inaction has created the belief in the minds of the anonymous perpetrators that they are beyond reach,” read the letter whose signatories included officials from the English Football Association, the Premier League, Women’s Super League and the organizations representing players, managers and referees.

One of world football’s leading anti-discrimination officials believes it could be time to log off until meaningful action is taken.

“What they probably need to do now is to have their own boycott,” said Piara Powar, executive director of the FARE network. “Can you imagine if Premier League clubs, even symbolically for one day this year called for a boycott of social media use by their fans, didn’t post anything for a day, and then kept doing that until the platforms showed some serious intent?

“Because there’s no question, although the issues in football are probably a scratch on the back of what Facebook is facing globally, if the level of engagement that football brings … they just wouldn’t want to lose that.”

But the platforms that allow clubs and players to engage with fans — and monetize sponsorships — can also be used as a force for good.

Manchester United and England striker Marcus Rashford showed just that by using Twitter in particular in the last year to campaign against child poverty. He utilized his ever-growing following of more than four million to pressure the government into providing free school meals during the pandemic.

“It wasn’t here 10-15 years ago and we’re privileged to have it, to connect with people all over the world with different cultures and religions,” Rashford told broadcaster Sky Sports. “To see people use it in a negative way is stupid. Hopefully they can sort out that.”

Rashford knows how disturbing the platforms can be as he was targeted with racist messages along with United teammates Axel Tuanzebe and Anthony Martial after a defeat to Sheffield United last month.

Rashford wants racist users “deleted straight away.” Facebook, which owns Instagram, this week pledged to disable accounts that send abusive direct messages as part of a push to show it would act on racism. This is being enforced almost two years after players in England boycotted social media for 24 hours. And it became clearer when Facebook was pressed on the policy that only a repeated number of unspecified racist messages would see a user banned.

“That isn’t really a position that’s acceptable to many people,” Powar said.

Instagram’s lack of a zero tolerance approach meant the account that racially abused Swansea player Yan Dhanda after an FA Cup loss to Manchester City on Wednesday will remain active, with only some messaging functions disabled for an unspecified period of time.

“We think it’s important people have the opportunity to learn from their mistakes,” said a statement from Facebook owner Instagram. “If they continue to break our rules this account will be removed.”

That does not go far enough for Swansea, which said it was “shocked and surprised by the leniency shown” over such toxic conduct.

“It is appalling that Facebook cannot empathize more with the victim of such offensive messages,” the south Wales club said in a statement on Saturday.

The police appear more determined to intervene and prosecute offenders who have hurled hatred online, beyond stadiums which are closed to fans during the pandemic. The government is also introducing legislation — the online safety bill — that could see social media companies fined for failing to protect their users.

The letter from the English football authorities to Dorsey and Zuckerberg asked for an improved verification process that ensures users provide accurate identification information and are barred from registering with a new account if banned. The need to submit identification documentation has been cautioned against by those highlighting how anonymity on the platforms can assist engagement by victims of domestic abuse, whistleblowers and those trying to communicate from danger zones.

Social media can still do more to detect abuse on their services.

“The failure to take down and challenge the worst type sort of racism, sexism we’ve seen has really left them untouched,” said Powar, whose FARE network investigates discrimination in football for governing bodies. “They just don’t seem to see it as a priority because there’s no question that they have the technical capability.”

Even staying off the sites yourself isn’t enough to escape being targeted with threats of violence, as managers and referees have discovered.

Referee Mike Dean contacted the police after receiving death threats through family accounts after sending players off in matches last week.

“Online abuse is unacceptable in any walk of life,” said Mike Riley, a former Premier League referee who is general manager of England’s refereeing body, “and more needs to be done to tackle the problem.”

Newcastle manager Steve Bruce has been alarmed by the menacing messages aimed at him via the account of son Alex, a former Hull and Ipswich defender.

“It’s really horrible stuff,” Bruce said. “Things like someone saying they hope I die of COVID.”

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta still has accounts but doesn’t log in himself anymore because of the vitriol.

“I prefer not to read because it would affect me personally much more the moment somebody wants to touch my family,” Arteta said. “The club was aware of it and we tried to do something about it and … can we do something about it? That’s what I am pushing for.”

It’s why players still take a knee before kickoff, as they have done since June as part of the Black Lives Matter campaign.

“This is us taking a stand against racism,” said Aston Villa defender Neil Taylor, who is trying to encourage more fellow British Asians into the sport. “I don’t think we’ll ever fully eradicate it, but we’re now trying to create a society which calls people out on it.”

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Sens Sickos: A look at the Sens fans movement on social media – CTV Edmonton

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OTTAWA —
You may have seen a new term trending on social media about the Ottawa Senators called “Sens Sickos.”

It’s an unlikely rallying cry; born not from the Sens’ success, but from their struggles.

Thanks to an unlikely fan, the movement now has a theme song.

James Mellish is a Sens super-fan.  While many locals have embraced the hometown team, Mellish is unique because he lives in St. Louis, Missouri.

“The Senators jersey just really caught my eye. I had nothing else to go on other than aesthetics,” says Mellish.

Mellish became a fan 15 years ago, while playing the “NHL 2004” video game at a sleepover when he was 12.

“I fell in love with hockey that very night,” said Mellish.

When he purchased the game, Mellish said, “And then I was like, I wonder if this team is any good in real life – and yes they were at that time, very much so; and, I’ve been them following them even more closely ever since.”

He’s now more than just a member of the Sens fan base; he created a theme song to the growing social media movement “Sens Sickos.”

“It ended up getting played in the arena, during a game that I fortunately was able to hurry home and be able to watch it live,” said Mellish.

He watched that game with his girlfriend, “and, we were just screaming on the couch when we realized it was me on the speakers.”

The “Sens Sickos” started when fans were hoping for a loss to increase Ottawa’s chances at the first overall pick in the NHL draft lottery last year.

Chris is a Sens fan, who goes by the Twitter handle @brochenski. He modified a political cartoon, and it grew from there.

“It was originally a meme made by the Onion,” Chris tells CTV News Ottawa.

He added a Senators hat and foam finger on the character, and says it then took off.

“It just kind of flows well, and it just fits the overall vibe of how Sens feel,” says Chris, “Sens fans feel kind of beaten down by the last few years.”

“That’s what we’ve come to in Ottawa; we’re at the stage now where the Sens have been losing games on the ice for so long that fans have found a way to amuse themselves,” says TSN 1200’s John Rodenburg.

Rodenburg thinks fans are ready to see the team not just win, but get back to the rink,

“Fans are just so thirsty to one day find a winning team, a team they can cheer on, be back in the rink at some point, experience what it’s like to be a fan again,” said Rodenburg, morning host on TSN 1200.  “But in the meantime, it’s like, what can I do to make this entire experience as fun as I possibly can.”

Mellish is looking forward to visiting Ottawa again and meeting other fans in person once the pandemic is over.   He’s visited Ottawa once, about 11 years ago.

“Definitely excited to do that.”

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Penguins admit they edited masks onto fans for social media post – CBS Sports

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The Pittsburgh Penguins have admitted that someone in their social media department altered a photo to make it look like everyone in it was wearing their mask correctly for a social media post. The team said in a statement to the New York Post that the staffer responsible for the edit has been disciplined.

The post itself, which is still up as of this writing, was made for the return of fans to the team’s arena for the first time since fans were barred from games as part of the league’s COVID-19 prevention policy. It included a quote from the Penguins’ coach about appreciation for the team’s supporters. The original image, however, included three people who didn’t have their masks over their nose and mouth, as DK Pittsburgh Sports reporter Taylor Haase noted.

A group of 2,800 fans was allowed into PPG Paints Arena on Tuesday for the first time since March 8, 2020. This came in response to a ruling from Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, who permitted gatherings up to 15 percent capacity at indoor venues. The Penguins marked the moment with a 5-2 win. 

As for the edit itself, the Penguins said that while the staffer was “perhaps well-intended” the move was against the organization’s policy. The team also made sure to note that the edits were only made on “a few fans” not following the rules.

“Our social media team should never send out altered photos to our fan base,” the statement continued. “This is a violation of our social media and safety policy, and this staffer has been disciplined.”

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Media group disputes Facebook Canada official's suggestion that exiting news markets an 'appropriate' option – Financial Post

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‘I am not sure why they would want to repeat what they did in Australia,’ News Media Canada President Johm Hinds said

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As Canadian legislation looms to level the playing field between news publishers and big tech platforms, the two sides continue to be divided over what value each brings to the other — even as multi-million-dollar agreements are forged to pay for news content in Europe and Australia. 

On Friday, an association representing publishers across the country took issue with statements made by Facebook Canada’s head of policy in an interview with The Logic, including a suggestion that the presence of news on the social media platform provides a value to publishers equivalent to several hundreds of millions of dollars. 

John Hinds, president of News Media Canada, disputed that figure, and pointed to a report published by his association last year that estimated the value of news content on the platforms at more than $600 million, an amount he said “far outstrips any benefit that publishers derive from the platforms.” 

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During the interview with The Logic, Facebook’s Chan suggested the News Media Canada report last year dealt primarily with the business model — and impact — of other online platforms, not Facebook’s.

Hinds, however, said his view is bolstered by a flurry of multi-million-dollar dollar deals Alphabet Inc.’s Google struck with publishers in Australia last month as the country put the final touches on a mandatory bargaining code governing the relationship between traditional publishers and the tech platforms. 

Google signed multi-year deals with three of Australia’s largest media companies, including Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., which are reportedly worth tens of millions of dollars to the publishers. 

  1. Facebook said this week it would raise its funding of news publishers to US$1 billion over three years.

    Facebook exploring potential news licensing agreements in Canada: source

  2. Facebook blocked all Australian news content on its service over proposed legislation requiring it and Google to pay fees to Australian publishers for news links.

    Canada vows to be next country to go after Facebook to pay for news

According to Google, each publisher’s deal is different, depending on what they bring to the table, and some of the compensation will come in the form of services “in kind” rather than cash for the publishers. 

Both Google and Facebook objected to Australia’s code, and pushed to be able to negotiate commercial licensing agreements with the publishers of their choice to feed specific news products, rather than being forced to pay for simply carrying news links or snippets. But the spectre of the mandatory code has been credited with pushing forward arrangements that were acceptable to both sides. 

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One of the most visible objections to the legislation was Facebook’s decision to pull Australian news from its platform for several days last month in protest of that country’s mandatory bargaining code. However, just days before the code became law with some minor amendments, Facebook struck its first commercial licensing deal with Australia’s Seven West Media. 

In the interview with the Logic, Chan said such an approach could still be “appropriate” depending on the situation.

“At the end of the day, if it doesn’t work for the platform because the regulation is not workable for them, then exiting the news market is an appropriate response,” he said.

News Media’s Hinds said he was surprised Facebook still views exiting a news market as a viable option.

“I am not sure why they would want to repeat what they did in Australia,” Hinds said.

Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault speaks to media in Ottawa.
Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault. Photo by Blair Gable/Reuters files

Canada’s heritage minister Steven Guilbeault has pledged to introduce legislation in Canada by June to level the playing field between digital platforms and traditional media players and support the domestic news industry. That plan has won favour with News Media Canada, which said Canadian news publishers and the heritage minister agree legislation is needed “to ensure there are fair negotiations” under a code of conduct. 

“We saw Facebook make threats but finally agree to compensate news publishers in Australia,” the statement said. “That behaviour shows it does not want to pay willingly and will only come to the negotiating table when legislation is passed.” 

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The online platforms have pointed out that publishers willingly share their stories and should simply remove them if they are unhappy they aren’t being compensated. But News Media Canada countered that an “unbalanced power structure” between publishers and the platforms has developed over time. After initially enticing publishers to display their wares, Facebook has now become “such a powerful platform that news publishers have no choice but to use it,” the organization said in Friday’s statement. 

Officials at Facebook declined to comment on the News Media Canada statement. 

Guilbeault has said Canada is studying both the Australian bargaining code and a European response based on copyright. It is understood there will be further consultations with publishers, the tech platforms, and other affected parties and experts before legislation is introduced.

In-depth reporting on the innovation economy from The Logic, brought to you in partnership with the Financial Post.

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