No room for racist behaviour on Twitter

Friday, 19 February 2021

Alongside our partners in football, we condemn racism in all its forms.

Racist behaviour, abuse and harassment have absolutely no place on our service. At Twitter, protecting the health of the public conversation is essential to us, and this means making sure Twitter is a safe place to express yourself and follow the conversation about football, without fear of abuse or intimidation.

Today, we wanted to share some of the ongoing measures we have put in place to combat this abhorrent behaviour, and to give an update on what’s next in making sure Twitter is a safe space for all - including those in the football community. We want to reiterate - there is no room for racist abuse on Twitter.

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Reducing the burden on victims of abuse

We are resolute in our commitment to ensure the football conversation on our service is safe for fans, players and everyone involved in the game. There have been over 11 million Tweets from people in the UK about football since the season started on the 12th September. In that time, we have removed over 5,000 Tweets in the UK that were targeting the football conversation with violations of the Twitter Rules - of which nearly 90% were removed proactively.

Sustained collaboration with partners in football and investment in technology have been essential to this proactive enforcement of our rules. We have gone from being reliant on people reporting these issues some years ago, to now, where the vast majority of these Tweets are identified proactively using technology.

It’s important to note that the violative Tweets represent approximately 0.05% of the overall football conversation on Twitter, and they absolutely do not reflect the vast majority of fans, players and everyone involved in the game who engage in positive and vibrant discussions about football on Twitter everyday. However, we will continue to take swift action on the minority that try to undermine the conversation for the majority.

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Partnering across football and industry

Being targeted with racist abuse - be it from the stands or from your smartphone - is an unacceptable experience. It is essential that we take a collective approach to combat this complex and deep societal issue — everyone has a role to play.

We want to continue to work collaboratively with our partners in football as well as industry and other social media companies, to ensure there is no place for racism online. The impact we can have as a social media service is dwarfed by the impact we can have collectively by working together. 

In collaboration with our partners in football, some of the steps we have taken over the past two years include: 

  • Making available new ways for our partners in football to rapidly report abuse to us, in the event it has not been detected by our technology;
  • The delivery of trainings with football clubs and police, including Dedicated Football Officers, on how to report abusive accounts and how to use Twitter effectively;
  • Supporting and running a number of campaigns confronting racism and prejudice - including Premier League and English Football League (EFL) anti-racism campaigns, #RainbowLaces, the Kick It Out Take A Stand campaign and #StandUpToHate - a campaign designed with Kick It Out and 10 other charities to encourage people to be active bystanders against hate online.

Along with the important work we’ve undertaken with partners, we have also increased people’s ability to control their experience on Twitter. In addition to the ability to hide replies;

  • We launched new conversation settings that allow people on Twitter, particularly those who have experienced abuse, to choose who can reply to the conversations they start.
  • We recently shared that we have been testing ways to prompt people to rethink potentially harmful language before they reply. We plan to roll this out to more account holders, as we continue to test and make this as impactful as possible.

More broadly, we are acutely aware that many high profile users can, at times, be particularly vulnerable to abuse and harassment. As long as any one person is targeted with abusive behaviour on our service, our work will not be done. We will continue to challenge this abhorrent behaviour at source along with our football partners and other social media companies. We look forward to sharing updates soon on new tools to support individuals experiencing increased abuse, and reduce the burden on victims of such behaviours.

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Why is pseudonymity permitted on Twitter?

We have always welcomed the opportunity to engage with, and hear ideas from, partners in the football community. At Twitter, we are guided by our values, and never more so than when it comes to fundamental issues like identity. We believe everyone has the right to share their voice without requiring a government ID to do so. Our approach in this space has been developed in consultation with leading NGOs - while pseudonymity has been a vital tool for speaking out in oppressive regimes, it is no less critical in democratic societies.

Pseudonymity may be used to explore your identity, to find support as victims of crimes, or to highlight issues faced by vulnerable communities. Indeed, many of the first voices to speak out on societal wrongdoings, have done so behind some degree of pseudonymity - once they do, their experience can encourage others to do the same, knowing they don’t have to put their name to their experience if they’re not comfortable doing so.

Perhaps most fundamentally of all - some of the communities who may lack access to government IDs are exactly those who we strive to give a voice to on Twitter. 

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Going forward

We have committed to Kick It Out’s initiative to tackle online hate, and look forward to continuing these discussions and developing solutions with our partners in football. 

We also continue to work with the government as they set out the requirements this year for technology companies like Twitter as part of their Online Harms regulatory proposals. 

Be it with football, civil society or government, we want the opportunity to explain our approach and hear ideas. We join our partners in condemning racism and we will continue to play our part in tackling this unacceptable behaviour - both online and offline.

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