December 4, 2021

‘Make social media users provide passport number’

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Former England rugby international James Haskell says social media users should have to provide a passport number in order to set up profiles, feeling it would help stop online abuse and hate.

Sky Sports launched the #HateWontStopUs campaign this week – aimed at raising awareness of online hate and abuse on social media – and also set out a series of measures to help tackle the issue.

Earlier this week, Manchester United defender Harry Maguire said he has learnt to ignore online hate through “age and experience” and frequently offers support to the club’s younger players to help them deal with social media abuse.

James Haskell of the Lions looks on during the match between the Chiefs and the British & Irish Lions at Waikato Stadium on June 20, 2017 in Hamilton, New Zealand
Image: Haskell was called up to the British & Irish Lions in 2017

Now Haskell, who was speaking on the Soccer AM sofa on Saturday morning, has called for legislation that would see people have the same rights online that you have in real life.

“I think one of the worst inventions of our generation is social media,” Haskell said. “When you’re in the public eye, people say you deserve to get this hate.

James Haskell in action for Northampton
Image: Haskell in action for Northampton, where he spent the 2018/19 season after leaving Wasps

“[It won’t change] until the law changes, when online is the same as real life. If you walk down the street and say ‘You’re a plonker, you’re a plonker’ to someone, eventually you’ll get arrested.

“On social media, you can keep attacking people constantly. There’s a lot of upset and unhappy people out there [on social media].

“If you had to put your passport number in or social security number to get online, it would cut the hate, it would sort out problems with children.

“It has got to stop. There are so many mental health issues in today’s society, and it’s only going to get worse. It’s appalling.”

Haskell, who appeared on TV reality show I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! in 2019, recently ventured into Mixed Martial Arts after retiring from rugby, with the 35-year-old knocking up 77 caps for England since his 2007 debut.