England and Manchester United star Rio Ferdinand spoke to Watford’s MP Dean Russell about the impact that racial abuse has on victims on the receiving end of hateful and discriminatory comments on social media.
The former England international was in Parliament to speak to a joint committee of MPs which has been tasked with reviewing the Online Safety Bill.
Dean Russell MP has been appointed to the committee which is scrutinising the legislation which includes landmark new measures to help safeguard young people and clamp down on unacceptable abuse online.
Following a question from the Watford MP regarding the human impact, Rio Ferdinand said that being on the receiving end of racial abuse “does hurt” and has an impact on both a person’s self-esteem and mental health.
He also commented that simply disabling comments or not looking at them does not address the problem and is an “easy cop out.” He also shared that it has a wider impact on the victim’s families and that he had to “explain to his children over breakfast what the monkey emoji means.”
Watford’s MP asked whether social media companies are profiting from prejudice, and Rio Ferdinand shared his view that this was the case, and that companies must do more to address how easy it is for abuse to be shared, given any posts which infringe on copyright material can be taken down almost immediately.
Rio also added that until the situation online is adequately addressed, such behaviour will continue to happen inside football stadiums, having been on the receiving end of racism inside a stadium recently.
The draft Bill marks a milestone in the Government’s fight to make the internet safer with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport highlighting that “over three quarters of UK adults are concerned about going online.”
Dean Russell MP said: “It is a privilege to sit on the Online Safety Bill committee. Social media is an integral part of everyday life for so many people. Nearly nine in ten UK adults and 99% of 12- to 15-year-olds are online so we cannot ignore the very real harms which people face. The internet has improved our lives in so many ways, but not everybody has a positive experience, and we must address this.
I would like to thank Rio Ferdinand and all the witnesses for taking the time to share their experiences. We need to ensure a clear message that racial abuse is simply unacceptable, whether in person or online and I welcome the government’s commitment to the Online Safety Bill.”