October 21, 2021

Henry vows to return to social media ‘when it’s safe’

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Thierry Henry says he will only return to social media “when it’s safe” and no longer “used as a weapon” for hate.

Former Arsenal and Barcelona striker Henry disabled all of his accounts on Saturday, describing current levels of racism and bullying on online platforms as “too toxic to ignore”.

The 43-year-old’s action – announced in a statement on Friday – comes during a spate of hate posts directed at footballers, himself included.

Marcus Rashford (L), Anthony Martial (C) and Manchester United team-mate Axel Tuanzebe were among the players subjected to racist abuse online last week 1:20
Oliver Dowden MP discusses the steps being taken by the government to stamp out online abuse

“Recently it happened to me off social media, it happened on social media. But recently it’s been coming quite a lot, players getting abused,” he told Good Morning Britain.

“I just think that it (social media) is not a safe place at the minute. People are getting racially abused but, when you see the statement, I talk also about bullying, harassment that can cause mental issues, people commit suicide because of it.

“It’s very difficult to eradicate everything but can it be safer? We all know that it is a great tool but a lot of people are using it as a weapon. Why? Because they can hide behind fake accounts.

“I know that a little portion of the world is using it as a weapon. ‘Can it be safer?’ is all I am asking. I will be back on it, when it’s safe.”

Henry, who last month left his managerial role at Montreal Impact, had 2.3m followers on Twitter and a further 2.7m on Instagram.

Instagram, who are owned by Facebook, took action on 6.6million pieces of hate speech between October and December last year.

Henry remains unhappy with the response of social media companies and compared the treatment of abusive posts with ones which infringe copyright law, while calling for greater regulation and accountability.

A detailed view of the corner flag with the FA logo on during the international friendly match between England and the Republic of Ireland at Wembley Stadium 0:48
FA chief executive Mark Bullingham has called on social media platforms to introduce identification in a bid to prevent online hate

His suggestions for banning anonymous accounts included being required to enter a National Insurance or passport number to sign up.

“Basically I had enough of what I heard as an answer all the time,” he said.

“Social media always say that ‘we are investigating it, we are trying to do stuff to eradicate it’ but enough is enough because I found out that if you want to upload a video on social media, they will block it, you can’t even send it.

“We all know why: because of the copyright, because money is involved, so it is different.

“Now for that they can create algorithms to make sure that you don’t do it. They will stop you there, they will act strongly there.

“I know people will tell me ‘freedom of speech’ and ‘a word can be used in different ways’.

“But listen, you cannot go in a cinema and shout whatever you want, you can’t shout whatever you want in the street, you can’t shout whatever you want at an airport. You can’t cross the line. All I want is accountability. We need to find out who those people are.”

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This is the message from Sky Sports presenters and reporters, who have united in supporting a new campaign aimed at raising awareness of online hate and abuse on social media.

Hate Won’t Stop Us

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

For more information please visit: www.skysports.com/hatewontstopus

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.