Football bodies call for action after ‘reprehensible online abuse’ directed at Son Heung-min
Football authorities have called on social media companies and officials to take “the strongest action” after Tottenham Hotspur said forward Son Heung-min was subjected to “reprehensible” online abuse.
Son scored Tottenham’s second goal in a 2-0 win against West Ham on Sunday, moving the club up to fourth in the Premier League table.
“We stand with Sonny and once again call on the social media companies and authorities to take action,” Tottenham said in a statement on Twitter.
On Sunday, a spokesperson from the England Football Association tweeted: “We strongly condemn the racist abuse aimed at Heung-Min Son this evening.
“This has no place in our game and we fully support the authorities and social media companies to take the strongest possible action to tackle it.”
CNN has reached out to Twitter and TikTok for comment.
When asked for comment on Monday, a spokesperson for Meta, which owns Instagram and Facebook, referred CNN to a guide, released ahead of last year’s World Cup, on how the company is protecting footballers on its apps.
That includes – among other safety features – turning off direct message requests, limiting who can comment on posts and hiding certain offensive words or phrases.
The claims of online abuse toward Son come a week after Brentford said that striker Ivan Toney was subjected to abuse on social media after scoring against Arsenal in the Premier League.
Acknowledging both incidents, anti-racism body Kick It Out, an organization focused on combating discrimination in sports, said in a statement: “The longer it takes social media companies to take action, or government to pass the online safety bill, the more players will be abused.
“Are players just expected to take the abuse while we wait for reform? Players should not be victims, they need better protection online, and this is why change needs to come quickly.”
Last year, a study conducted by players’ unions in football and basketball revealed that sports stars were receiving hundreds of “abusive” comments, including racist posts and “threatening or violent language.”
Such abuse, the study said, was impacting the mental well-being and performance of athletes.
In a response to the study, a Twitter spokesperson told CNN at the time: “We are committed to combating abuse motivated by hatred, prejudice or intolerance and as outlined in our Hateful Conduct Policy, we do not tolerate the abuse or harassment of people on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity or sexual orientation.
“Today, more than 50% of violative content is surfaced by our automated systems, further reducing the burden on individuals to report abuse. While we have made recent strides in giving people greater control to manage their safety, we know there is still work to be done.”