Chief constable: Online racists can’t hide behind internet

Social media companies deserve praise for being receptive to their failings when it comes to handling racist abuse, says Mark Roberts; “I’ve got to say they’ve tremendously upped their game, and we now get great support from Facebook, Instagram and Twitter,” he added

People who use social media to send racist abuse can no longer hide behind the internet and will face “real life consequences” for their actions, says chief constable of Cheshire Constabulary Mark Roberts.

Police investigating the online racial abuse of England trio Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka following the Euro 2020 final against Italy have made 11 arrests so far.

Roberts warns those who engage in such behaviours that they will no longer be able to get away with racially abusing footballers on social media and will feel the repercussions for their actions.

“There’s been 11 arrests so far and three have been taken for interview at a police station, so it’s important to see that there is some output for the tremendous amount of work we’ve put in,” Roberts told Sky Sports News.

“I think the key thing with the online hate crime is that people recognise they can’t do it anonymously, they can’t hide behind the internet and there are real life consequences if they’re going to engage in this sort of appalling behaviour.

“It is important these people do recognise the consequences and, as well as the potential prosecution and the sanctions of a court, increasingly we are seeing people being outed for engaging in this sort of behaviour.

Image: Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka were targeted with racist abuse after missing penalties

“There are consequences in terms of employment – people have lost university places, people have lost jobs – and people need to recognise that this is really serious, and they face real consequence not just from the courts but employers and broader society, who just find this behaviour totally unacceptable.”

‘Social media companies showing real progress’

Roberts says social media companies deserve praise for being “receptive” to their previous failings and improving their lines of communication with the police to help with investigations into racist abuse on their platforms.

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Roberts says social media companies deserve praise for taking big strides in the fight against online abuse on their platforms

Police were used to waiting up to six months for a response from social media companies following an incident of racist abuse on their sites, but during Euro 2020 they were hearing back within two or three days.

“It’s not that long ago I was really critical of social media companies, because at times it was taking us up to six months to get a response,” added Roberts.

“I’ve got to say they’ve tremendously upped their game, and we now get great support from Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

“So that six months has come right down to two or three days during the European Championships working with our dedicated investigation team. They’re turning it round really quickly – that’s positive.

“I think we should give them credit for being receptive to it and now putting us in the position where we can move quickly and start making arrests. We’re making arrests now in a shorter time than we would have got a response from the social media companies not that long ago.

“There’s been real progress on that front, we just need to keep the effort up to make sure that people engaging in this sort of behaviour know they will be identified and there will be a consequence.”

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Source : Sky Sports