Manchester United and Twitter to meet over Paul Pogba racist abuse row
Twitter: "We know we need to do more to protect our users. Racist behaviour has no place on our platform and we strongly condemn it"
Last Updated: 21/08/19 7:00pm
Twitter and Manchester United representatives will meet within the next few weeks to discuss the racist abuse aimed at Paul Pogba following Monday night’s game with Wolves.
Pogba was targeted after failing to score a penalty in the 1-1 draw at Molineux on Monday and was backed by team-mates Harry Maguire and Marcus Rashford, who called on Twitter to take action against the culprits.
Greater Manchester Police have told Sky Sports News that no formal investigation has yet been launched into the abuse directed at Pogba, because there has so far been no specific complaint made to them from the public.
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"Over the next few weeks, Twitter representatives will meet with Manchester United, Kick It Out and any other civil society stakeholders interested in hearing about the proactive work Twitter is doing to address online racist abuse towards certain footballers in the UK," a Twitter spokesman told Sky Sports News.
"We have always maintained an open and healthy dialogue with our partners in this space, but we know we need to do more to protect our users. Racist behaviour has no place on our platform and we strongly condemn it.
"To this end, we look forward to working more closely with our partners to develop shared solutions together. In the meantime, for Twitter's part, we will continue to proactively monitor the conversation, and take aggressive enforcement action when content violates our Rules."
Manchester United are also keen for Kick It Out, the Football Association and the Premier League to take a lead for a more gathered approach from teams in general to hopefully solve this issue from all angles.
Last week, Twitter had agreed to discuss racist abuse with football anti-discrimination group Kick It Out for the first time following the abuse received by Chelsea striker Tammy Abraham after he missed the decisive penalty in their UEFA Super Cup defeat to Liverpool.
Reading midfielder Yakou Meite was also subjected to racial abuse after a 3-0 win over Cardiff in the Championship.
PFA deputy chief executive Bobby Barnes has warned players could be forced off social media if racist abuse continues, describing the platform as a "new battleground".
He told Sky Sports News: "Towards the back end of last season, we saw a few incidents creeping back into the grounds, which we were obviously very concerned about.
"We're now heading towards a new battleground of social media. Players have opened up and engaged with the fans, but there's a situation now where you're starting to question whether players should even be on it at all.
"The one thing social media has done is make players more accessible. It would be a real shame if a small minority of idiots were to spoil that."
The expert's view
Cyber security expert Eerke Boiten told Sky Sports News that police have the power to demand email addresses and other personal information of racists who post abuse online, but those powers are typically reserved for organised crime and terrorism.
"The vile, racist abuse of Paul Pogba and other top footballers has been rightly condemned within football and wider society," Boiten said. "Twitter and the other social media companies do have information about the email addresses of those abusers, and the IP addresses of their computers where the abuse came from.
"If the police obtained a court order, they could demand that information be provided by the social media platforms, so that they could pursue a criminal case. But various Acts of Parliament dictate that such powers are reserved for the most serious crimes, like terrorism.
"Revealing that sensitive information is problematic for the social media companies, because they are desperate to retain an ethos of freedom of speech."
Boiten said there are difficult political discussions to be had about whether social media companies should be obliged to filter out abusive messages before they appear on the platform, or whether they should act once those messages are public.
"In the Pogba case, it's clear those comments are abusive and disgusting," he says. "But in other cases, what is offensive to some, is not necessarily offensive to others. There are grey areas - and that is a principle of freedom of speech.
"And there are many people who would question whether it is right for a commercial company like Twitter to be the ones to police what is right and wrong, what is abusive and what is not."
'It's an immediate problem to confront'
"Right now the club are just trying to make sure this stuff isn't repeated," says Sky Sports News' North West correspondent James Cooper. "They recognise - and I'm sure Twitter, the FA and the Premier League do as well - that this is an immediate problem to confront.
"The club will do all they can to identify those people who made those remarks, but that is not an easy thing to do. If they do find these people, they'll take very serious actions indeed. But the problem is finding them, and I think this is why they require help and advice and guidance from people that run the platform, to help and speed up the process.
"What the criticism of Paul Pogba has done is put the issue on a different level. As soon as you involve Manchester United and one of the world's most well-known players, that has more Instagram followers than United do as a club, it just puts it on a different level.
"Manchester United are hoping that he will be the figurehead where things hopefully will change for the better. But right now, what they really want to do is open a dialogue as to how this can be controlled and contained, and make sure that this doesn't happen with other players too."