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Instagram announces tougher sanctions on abusive messages after racist abuse directed at footballers

Instagram to remove accounts of people who send abusive messages while developing new controls to help reduce the abuse people see in their direct messages; watch Facebook Content Policy Manager Fadzai Madzingira speak to Sky Sports News at 1pm

Marcus Rashford is one of several footballers to be racially abused on social media in recent weeks (AP)
Image: Marcus Rashford is one of several footballers to be racially abused on social media in recent weeks (AP)

Instagram will impose stricter penalties including the removal of accounts to prevent abusive messages on its platform, following recent racist abuse directed towards footballers.

Manchester United's Axel Tuanzebe, Manchester United Women's Lauren James and Chelsea's Antonio Rudiger and Reece James are part of a growing list of footballers who have been racially abused on social media in recent weeks.

Manchester United said they were "disgusted" with the comments towards their players on social media and released a joint statement with Everton, Liverpool and Manchester City condemning the abuse endured by multiple professional footballers in recent weeks and months.

The government has said it will change the law to make social media companies more accountable for malicious content.

Facebook, which owns Instagram, says abuse via 'direct messages' has been more difficult to police than public posts.

In a statement released on Instagram, the platform said it will now be removing the accounts of people who send abusive messages, and developing new controls to help reduce the abuse people see.

Instagram's stance on hate speech

"Our rules against hate speech don't tolerate attacks on people based on their protected characteristics, including race or religion. We strengthened these rules last year, banning more implicit forms of hate speech, like content depicting Blackface and common antisemitic tropes. We take action whenever we become aware of hate speech, and we're continuously improving our detection tools so we can find it faster. Between July and September of last year, we took action on 6.5m pieces of hate speech on Instagram, including in DMs, 95 per cent of which we found before anyone reported it."

New stricter penalties for abuse

"Today, we're announcing that we'll take tougher action when we become aware of people breaking our rules in DMs. Currently, when someone sends DMs that break our rules, we prohibit that person from sending any more messages for a set period of time. Now, if someone continues to send violating messages, we'll disable their account. We'll also disable new accounts created to get around our messaging restrictions, and will continue to disable accounts we find that are created purely to send abusive messages.

How Instagram will work with law enforcement

"We're also committed to cooperation with UK law enforcement authorities on hate speech and will respond to valid legal requests for information in these cases. As we do with all requests from law enforcement, we'll push back if they're too broad, inconsistent with human rights, or not legally valid."

More tools for users to control their experience

"When it comes to Instagram comments, we also have a number of tools that help people protect themselves. People can use comment filters to prevent others from leaving offensive comments that use words, phrases, or emojis they don't want to see. Last year we announced a new feature to manage multiple unwanted comments in one go - whether that's bulk deleting them, or bulk blocking the accounts that posted them. We also saw a meaningful decrease in offensive comments after we started using AI to warn people when they're about to post something that might be hurtful."

Hate Won't Stop Us

Sky Sports is committed to making and our channels on social media platforms a place for comment and debate that is free of abuse, hate and profanity.

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If you see a reply to Sky Sports posts and/or content with an expression of hate on the basis of race, colour, gender, nationality, ethnicity, disability, religion, sexuality, age or class please copy the URL to the hateful post or screengrab it and email us here.

Kick It Out reporting racism

Online Reporting Form | Kick It Out

Kick It Out is football's equality and inclusion organisation - working throughout the football, educational and community sectors to challenge discrimination, encourage inclusive practices and campaign for positive change.

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