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New UK bill can fight fresh wave of online racist abuse


The Euros final and Grand Prix put online abuse once more in the spotlight. The UK’s Online Safety Bill provides a strong framework for tackling the problem.

The ugly online abuse targeted at members of the England football team following the Euros final, and then at Lewis Hamilton after the British Grand Prix, was not only hateful to the individuals concerned, but divisive for the UK more broadly.

More needs to be done to regulate online platforms to avoid the spread of such abuse at scale. Online platforms are making increasing efforts to ‘self-regulate’ in order to tackle online abuse. Over the past year, Facebook and Twitter have strengthened their policies on hateful speech and conduct, such as Facebook’s policy banning Holocaust denial. Both have become more vigilant at deplatforming those who violate their terms of service, such as Donald Trump, and at removing online abuse using a combination of machines and humans.

Twitter announced in the 24 hours following the Euros final that it had removed more than 1,000 tweets, and permanently suspended several accounts, for violating its rules. But inevitably not all abusive posts are picked up given the scale of the issue and, once the post has been seen, arguably the damage is done.

Platforms have also partnered with NGOs on initiatives to counter hate speech and have launched initiatives to tackle the rise in coordinated inauthentic behaviour and information operations that seek to sow distrust and division. But while these efforts are all laudable, they are not enough.

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