The Week Kick-off: Social media under scrutiny again following grim end to the Euros

The delayed Euro 2020 tournament came to a close last night, under a cloud of racist abuse directed at the England players on social media. The hate speech has been publicly condemned by the FA, the UK Prime Minister, the Duke of Cambridge, and other high-profile figures, with renewed calls for regulation. In happier news, commercial space flight was born yesterday as Sir Richard Branson took to the skies, 10 days ahead of his space adventuring counterpart, Jeff Bezos. 

Euro 2020 ends under a cloud of racist abuse

The final of the tournament last night saw England take on Italy at Wembley, with the match ending by way of an Italy win on penalties late into the night. But what should have been a momentous occasion in the post-Covid live events calendar, not to mention by way of the historic 31 million audience viewing figure generated from within the UK alone, was quickly overshadowed when with three of England’s players – Bukayo Saka (19), Marcus Rashford (23), and Jadon Sancho (21) – were singled out and subjected to a torrent of racist abuse on social media.

Immediately, a number of authorities and high-profile figures commented publicly to condemn the actions, and call upon social media companies to be held to higher account:

“We strongly condemn all forms of discrimination and are appalled by the online racism that has been aimed at some of our England players on social media… Social media companies need to step up and take accountability and action to ban abusers from their platforms, gather evidence that can lead to prosecution and support making the platforms free from this type of abhorrent abuse.” 
Official FA Statement

“It’s just not what we stand for. We have been a beacon of light in bringing people together in people being able to relate to the national team, and the national team stands for everybody, and so that togetherness has to continue. We have shown the power our country has when it does come together and has that energy and positivity together.”
England Manager, Gareth Southgate

“I am sickened by the racist abuse aimed at England players after last night’s match. It is totally unacceptable that players have to endure this abhorrent behaviour. It must stop now and all those involved should be held accountable.”
The Duke of Cambridge, Prince William

“This England team deserve to be lauded as heroes, not racially abused on social media. Those responsible for this appalling abuse should be ashamed of themselves.”
UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson

“I’m just reading your breaking news, and it says the PM condemns racist abuse of England players. Is that the same Prime Minister that a few weeks ago… Gareth Southgate a few weeks ago, about five days on the trot, told us that the players were taking the knee to promote the equality, and it was against racism. The Prime Minister said that it was okay for the population of this country to boo those players who were trying to promote equality and defend against racism. It starts at the very top. And so for me, I wasn’t surprised in the slightest when I woke up this morning to those headlines.”
Gary Neville, former England Player & Assistant Manager

Meanwhile, a Facebook spokesperson responded to the events: 

“No one should have to experience racist abuse anywhere, and we don’t want it on Instagram. We quickly removed comments and accounts directing abuse at England’s footballers last night and we’ll continue to take action against those that break our rules. In addition to our work to remove this content, we encourage all players to turn on Hidden Words, a tool which means no one has to see abuse in their comments or DMs. No one thing will fix this challenge overnight, but we’re committed to keeping our community safe from abuse.”
As reported by BBC Sport

It was a public response from the social media giant that appeared to be met with familiar scepticism by the covering press, as calls for greater social media regulation grow around the world. It’s an issue that we cover in-depth and on a technical level by way of our FIPP Media Tech Regulation Tracker, but the events of the Euro 2020 final provided a high-profile, real-world example of the current issues being amplified by social media, and an ugly one at that. 

To infinity, and beyond! 

Before the Euro 2020 final was overshadowed by vile social media abuse, it’s important to remember that a wonderful international live and televised media event took place. And right before that, on the same day, an even greater one took place… Virgin Group Founder and original modern media celebrity CEO, Sir Richard Branson, rocketed to the edge of space in one of his own Virgin Galactic planes. While still technically deemed to be a test flight, the trip was widely hailed as the beginning of commercial space flight, with the CEO himself deeming it to be, the “experience of a lifetime”.

The whole thing was livestreamed online and across international news channels, in the latest in a string of recent events that have injected the excitement back into space travel, and captured the global imagination. 

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk got so close to the action that he wound up in Branson’s kitchen at 3am on the morning of the flight, and in typical Virgin fashion the whole event felt slightly more media than tech, with the ships themselves being manned by real life pilots. It will be a different story – and a different type of vehicle – when Jeff Bezos takes to the skies in his Blue Origin rocket next week

As for FIPP… 

Two very heavy subjects there, each in their own way, so less of a multitude in your Kick-off this week! But one final thing we would flag is that our FIPP Insider New Zealand event will be taking place this week, in association with the Magazine Publishers Association of New Zealand (MPA) and PressReader, and you can find out more about that one here.  


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