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British sport to boycott social media giants over online abuse and discrimination

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Arsenal’s German-born Bosnian defender Sead Kolasinac (R) plays the ball during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Manchester United at the Emirates Stadium in London on March 10, 2019.

Ben Stansall | AFP | Getty Images

LONDON – The world’s biggest social media platforms are being boycotted by British sports teams, athletes and leading sports bodies over a lack of action regarding online abuse.

Facebook, Instagram and Twitter will be shunned from 3:00 p.m. London time on Friday to 11:59 p.m. on Monday.

The boycott — embraced by sports including soccer, rugby and cricket — comes as the U.S. tech giants continue to face criticism for failing to remove racist and sexist abuse that gets posted on their platforms.

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Facebook, which owns Instagram, and Twitter said that racism and other forms of abuse have no place on their platforms.

Anti-discrimination organizations like Kick It Out and Show Racism the Red Card are involved in the boycott, as are sport’s governing bodies.

Kick It Out said in September that there was a 42% increase in reports of discrimination in professional soccer last season, with the number of incidents rising from 313 to 446.

Former World Cup winner and Arsenal’s record goal-scorer Thierry Henry, who removed himself from social media last month, hailed the boycott as a “start” in the battle against racism and discrimination.

“(What) the world of English football is doing at the minute and what’s going to happen at the weekend, people ask me, ‘Is it enough, the weekend?’” he told CNN this week. “And I’m like, ‘it’s a start.’ You know, you can’t be too greedy from not having anything to that. It’s a start.”

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Watford Football Club captain Troy Deeney told the BBC on Friday that many athletes receive abusive messages online on a daily basis, while some people experience it hourly.  

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On Friday morning, Alex Scott, who played for Arsenal and England before moving into broadcasting, urged members of the public to get involved. “Join us and switch off too, as we collectively demand change,” she wrote on Twitter.

Premier League Chief Executive Richard Masters said in a statement: “Racist behavior of any form is unacceptable and the appalling abuse we are seeing players receive on social media platforms cannot be allowed to continue.”

He added: “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. We will not stop challenging social media companies and want to see significant improvements in their policies and processes to tackle online discriminatory abuse on their platforms.”

Fines of up to 10% of annual global turnover

Ahead of the boycott, Manchester United wrote on Twitter: “Since September 2019, there has been a 350% increase in online abuse directed towards our players. We need change.” Separately, Everton Football Club said via Twitter: “Enough is enough” and used hashtags “#StopOnlineAbuse” and “NoRoomForRacism.”

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British Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden wrote in British newspapers this week that the social media firms will face “severe sanctions” if they fail to remove racist abuse. “We could see fines of up to ten per cent of annual global turnover,” he wrote. “For a company such as Facebook or YouTube, that could be billions.”

Companies including Adidas, Barclays, Budweiser, Cazoo and betting app Smarkets, are taking part in the boycott, as are broadcasters including BT Sport and talkSPORT.

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It’s not the first time the social media companies have faced a backlash for failing to remove offensive content. Last year, more than 1,000 groups and companies took part in a boycott, hoping to pressure Facebook into taking more stringent steps to stop the spread of hate speech and misinformation on its platform. Participants included the likes of HP, Verizon, Coca-Cola, Diageo and Ben & Jerry’s.

A Facebook spokesperson said it’s against the company’s policies to harass or discriminate against people on Facebook or Instagram.

“We agree with and have already made progress on many of the players’ suggestions, including taking tougher action against people breaking our rules in DMs,” the spokesperson said in a statement shared with CNBC.

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“We also recently announced that, starting next week, we’ll provide new tools, based on consultation with footballers and anti-discrimination experts, to help prevent people seeing abusive messages from strangers. We continue to work with UK police on hate speech, and respond to valid legal requests for information, which can be essential for investigations. We’ll continue listening to feedback and keep fighting hate and racism on our platform.”

Twitter said it has removed over 7,000 tweets in the U.K since Sept. 12 that were targeting the soccer conversation with violations of the Twitter Rules.

“This represents roughly 0.02% of the overall football conversation in the U.K. and does not reflect the vast majority of people who engage in vibrant discussions about football on Twitter,” a spokesperson said.

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Facebook-Meta Earns the ‘Worst Company of 2021’ Title in This Survey

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Facebook has had its share of controversies this year. The company was under more scrutiny after whistleblower Frances Haugen leaked a series of internal documents.

Facebook parent Meta has been named the Worst Company of the Year (2021) by Yahoo Finance respondents. According to the publication, an “open-ended” survey was published on Yahoo Finance on December 4 and 5, where 1,541 respondents participated. Facebook received 8 percent of the write-in vote, but respondents were seemingly mad about the Robinhood trading app as well. Electric truck startup Nikola, which was named last year’s worst company by the same publication also faced respondents ire.

Yahoo Finance notes, “Facebook has had its share of controversies this year.” Starting in January, Meta-owned WhatsApp got caught up in a huge controversy after the messaging app announced a new privacy policy (Terms of Service). WhatsApp said it would collect user information and share it with third-party apps for a better user experience. However, the app gave users no choice but later made modifications to the policy under pressure. Similarly, the company was under more scrutiny after whistleblower and former Facebook employee Frances Haugen leaked a series of internal documents showing the company’s problematic practices. It was revealed that Meta-owned Instagram had a negative impact on teenage girls, but the company did almost nothing to rectify the problem.

Yahoo Finance even highlights, “At the same time, some critics, including conservatives, say Facebook over-policed the platform’s speech and stifled their voices.” Critics also blame Facebook and other social media platforms for not curbing hate speech that led to Capitol Building riots.

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However, around 30 percent of Yahoo Finance readers said that Facebook or Meta could redeem itself. One respondent suggested that the company could issue a formal apology for negligence and donate a sizable amount of its profits to a foundation to help reverse its harm.

On the other hand, respondents chose Microsoft as the Company of the Year (2021). The Satya Nadella-led company touched the trillion-mark this year and introduced notable upgrades. The most notable is the Windows 11 OS update that succeeds Windows 10.

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Facebook pays 1.7 Cr fine to Russia after failing to delete content Moscow deems illegal

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In the latest legal tussle with Russia over controversial social media regulation laws, Facebook paid 17 million roubles (Rs 1.7 Crore) for failing to remove content deemed illegal by Moscow. With a threat of potential larger fines looming, Facebook parent company Meta, owned by Mark Zuckerberg, is scheduled to face court next week over repeated violations of Russian legislation on content, Interfax News Agency reported. As per the latest updates, the social media giant could be fined a percentage of its annual revenue.

In October, Moscow sent state bailiffs to enforce the collection of 17 million roubles. Meanwhile, as per Interfax report citing a federal bailiffs’ database, on Sunday, there were more enforcement proceedings against the company. Apart from the popular social media app, Telegram has also paid 15 million roubles in fines for failing to comply with the Russian social media legislations that came into force in 2016.

Facebook pays $53k to Russia for refusing controversial social media laws

It is pertinent to mention that Facebook has locked horns with Moscow earlier in November, resulting in it paying 4 million roubles ($53,000) over its refusal to adhere to Russian data localisation laws, the Moscow Times reported. The Moscow court on November 25 had said that Facebook paid the fine levied in February, following which all proceedings against the US-based social media giant. The payment comes against the litigation filed against the company in 2018, alongside Twitter. The tech companies were also forced to pay an additional 3000 rubles ($40) for failing to comply with user data sharing rules as per the law. The Russian authorities have also previously blocked LinkedIn, owned by Microsoft, for failing to abide by the laws.

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Russian social media laws

As per Moscow Times, under the Russian social media regulation laws, all foreign technology companies are required to store data related to Russian customers and users on servers located in Russia. Additionally, the Russian tech companies will also have to share encryption data with the federal authorities as well as record user calls, messages and civil society group conversation records. The apparatus is said to be a severe breach of privacy rights and unfettered back-door access to personal data that could be used to harass Kremlin critics.

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Facebook Messenger Is Launching a Split Payments Feature for Users to Quickly Share Expenses

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Facebook Messenger Is Launching a Split Payments Feature for Users to Quickly Share Expenses

Meta has announced the arrival of a new Split Payments feature in Facebook Messenger. This feature, as the name suggests, will let you calculate and split expenses with others right from Facebook Messenger. This feature essentially looks to bring an easier method to share the cost of bills and expenses — for example, splitting a dinner bill with friends. Using this new Split Payment feature, Facebook Messenger users will be able to split bills evenly or modify the contribution for each individual, including their own.

The company took to its blog post to announce the new Split Payment feature in Facebook Messenger. 9to5Mac reports that this new bill splitting feature is still in beta and will be exclusive to US users at first. The rollout will begin early next week. As mentioned, it will help users share the cost of bills, expenses, and payments. This feature is especially useful for those who share an apartment and need to split the monthly rent and other expenses with their mates. It could also come handy at a group dinner with many people.

With Split Payments, users can add the number of people the expense needs to be divided with and, by default, the amount entered will be divided in equal parts. A user can also modify each person’s contribution including their own. To use Split Payments, click the Get Started button in a group chat or the Payments Hub in Messenger. Users can modify the contribution in the Split Payments option and send a notification to all the users who need to make payments. After entering a personalised message and confirming your Facebook Pay details, the request will be sent and viewable in the group chat thread.

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Once someone has made the payment, you can mark their transaction as ‘completed’. The Split Payment feature will automatically take into account your share as well and calculate the amount owed accordingly.


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Tasneem Akolawala is a Senior Reporter for Gadgets 360. Her reporting expertise encompasses smartphones, wearables, apps, social media, and the overall tech industry. She reports out of Mumbai, and also writes about the ups and downs in the Indian telecom sector. Tasneem can be reached on Twitter at @MuteRiot, and leads, tips, and releases can be sent to tasneema@ndtv.com.

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