Boris Johnson tells tech giants to ‘Up your game’ on dealing with racist abuse after summoning them to Downing Street in wake of hate storm against England stars
- Boris Johnson summoned tech giants to Downing Street over racist trolling
- Prime Minister gave the bosses of leading social media firms a dressing down
- Comes as police look for trolls responsible for vile insults at England players
Boris Johnson summoned tech giants to Downing Street last night and ordered them to ‘up their game’ over the racist trolling of England football stars.
The Prime Minister gave the bosses of leading social media firms a dressing down, telling them they must take urgent action before the introduction of laws that could land them with huge fines.
The foul abuse is often sent by cyber bullies hiding behind anonymous accounts.
Mr Johnson was expected to tell the companies – which included Twitter, Facebook and TikTok – they must hand over the details of those found to have posted racist comments so the authorities can make an example of them.
It comes as police continue to seek the trolls responsible for vile insults aimed at Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka, the three England players who missed penalties in Sunday night’s Euro 2020 final defeat.
Boris Johnson summoned tech giants to Downing Street last night and gave the bosses of leading social media firms a dressing down
The No 10 summit had been scheduled before the football tournament began, with the tech giants invited to Downing Street for a garden reception for the Diana Award anti-bullying charity,
But the talks were given fresh impetus after the targeting of the black England footballers that led to condemnation from politicians, players and Prince William, who is president of the FA .
The firms were told yesterday morning that the PM would speak to them directly about the issue.
Ahead of the meeting, Mr Johnson’s spokesman said: ‘We think through the scale and prevalence of racist abuse that social media companies need to up their game to prevent online abuse now.
‘We expect social media companies to do everything they can to identify these people. The police already have a range of powers to identify and pursue those who use anonymity to spread hatred, but we’ve committed to strengthening the criminal law in this area.’
Last night sources said the PM and Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden had had a positive and constructive discussion with the tech firms, who set out what they were doing to tackle the problem.
Earlier Mr Johnson had opened the weekly Cabinet meeting by repeating his condemnation of the racist abuse. His government’s Online Harms Bill proposes tougher laws to tackle it.
MPs will get a chance to debate the topic today after Labour’s shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds was granted an urgent question asking Home Secretary Priti Patel for a statement.
He asked her in the Commons on Monday why it had taken two years for the Online Harms Bill to be published and called for criminal sanctions against executives of social media firms.
Under the draft proposals, internet firms would be placed under a ‘duty of care’ and could be fined up to 10 per cent of their annual global turnover for failing to clean up their sites.
Labour last night called for the courts to be given new powers to ban online racists from matches. An online petition calling for racists to get life bans from all football matches in England has received nearly a million signatures.
It comes after England players Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka, faced racist abuse online
Members of the public gather to view the messages of support at the mural of England player Marcus Rashford in Withington, Manchester
Miss Patel was defended by Mr Johnson yesterday after she was accused of double standards by one of the England squad. Aston Villa defender Tyrone Mings said she had ‘stoked the fire’ by criticising the team’s anti-racist take-the-knee protest as ‘gesture politics’.
She had then ‘pretended to be disgusted’, he claimed. On Monday, Miss Patel – sporting an England shirt – tweeted that the ‘vile racist abuse… has no place in our country’.
Downing Street said that Mr Johnson, who has faced criticism for his allegedly racist remarks as a newspaper columnist, was firmly behind his Home Secretary. And former England star John Barnes said she should not be blamed for stoking racism because ‘the fire was already raging’.
Despite criticising Miss Patel for her comments on taking the knee, he said the abuse stemmed from a much wider ‘societal problem’.
The Prime Minister was expected to tell the companies – which included Twitter, Facebook and TikTok – they must hand over the details of those found to have posted racist comments about the England players. (Stock image)
Stephen Barclay, the chief secretary to the Treasury, said Miss Patel, the daughter of Ugandan Asian immigrants, had herself been the victim of appalling online abuse.
However, former Tory minister Johnny Mercer said: ‘The painful truth is that this guy [Mings] is completely right. [I am] very uncomfortable with the position we Conservatives are needlessly forcing ourselves into. Do I fight it or stay silent?’
Taking the knee has become a universal anti-racism symbol since being adopted by black American football star Colin Kaepernick before a match in 2016.
In early games at the Euros, some England fans booed the act, with No 10 initially failing to condemn them.
It took four days before Mr Johnson said he wanted fans to ‘cheer them on, not boo’, while Miss Patel said of those who boo: ‘That’s a choice for them.’
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