Like tens of millions of people across the country, I watched our brave England team fall just short in the final of Euro 2020. Despite their narrow loss, I was incredibly proud of the team and their manager Gareth Southgate. They represent the best of our country and used their position to speak out against racism, poverty and to support our NHS.
However, I was also deeply disappointed at the racist abuse directed towards Black English players on social media following the final. However, I was not surprised to see it happen. For decades Black and minority players have shared the shocking stories of abuse they have suffered. Charities such as Show Racism the Red Card have identified on a number of occasions the disgraceful volume of racist abuse on social media.
Yet still, the Prime Minister and Home Secretary could not bring themselves to condemn those that booed the England players taking the knee as a symbol against racism. Instead, describing it as “gesture politics” and defending the rights of those that chose to boo. The failure to condemn those who booed is shameful and has emboldened those that engage in racist abuse.
The Government must act urgently to make social media companies clean up their platforms and ensure they are responsible for racism and hate speech that is posted on them. For too long social media companies have claimed to be powerless whilst their products have been used to spread and coordinate hate speech against individuals and communities. The Online Safety Bill must contain provisions to make social media companies responsible for the abuse that appears on their platforms. The Labour party would seek to strengthen the Bill by introducing criminal sanctions for senior tech executives who repeatedly fail to enforce the rules.