Social media companies have handed over personal details of those accused of sharing racist posts online after England’s Euro 2020 final penalty shootout.
Twitter and Facebook have been ‘working very closely’ with investigating police officers, who say they are digging into dozens of people’s racist tweets after five people were arrested.
The social media giants will provide names, emails and IP addresses of users believed to have sent the discriminatory messages if requested by the authorities, the Times reports.
The UK Football Policing Unit (UKFPU) yesterday provided an update on its investigation following abusive posts targeting Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka in the wake of the Three Lions’ defeat on penalties to Italy.
Three of the suspects have already been publicly identified – plasterer Brad Pretty, 49, from Folkestone, Kent; estate agent Andrew Bone, 37, from Sale, Cheshire; and children’s football coach Nick Scott, 50, from Powick, Worcestershire.
A fourth suspect, a 37-year-old man from Ashton-upon-Mersey in Greater Manchester, was then arrested yesterday, officials said, before a fifth, a 42-year-old man from Runcorn was then detained by police in Cheshire today.
Nineteen-year-old Bukayo Saka is inconsolable after failing to score his penalty kick and handing victory to the Italians on Sunday night
Marcus Rashford (left) and Jadon Sancho (right) also faced racist abuse after missing their penalties in the final on Sunday
Twitter said it had removed more than 1,000 posts in the 24 hours during and after the match, and suspended a number of accounts for violating its rules. Facebook said it too had quickly removed abusive comments on its platform and Instagram.
Data from analytics company Crisp, which works with top-flight football clubs, found England players faced 12,500 hate messages on social media during Euro 2020, including banana and monkey emojis.
The abuse from 10,000 accounts was aimed directly at players, through Twitter and Instagram, and includes comments about race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, as well as extreme personal abuse and threats of harm, including to family members.
The number of abusive accounts equates to 3 per cent of all users posting to the players’ accounts during the tournament.
Adam Mosseri, Instagram’s chief executive, told the Times that mistakes in the company’s detection software had allowed abusive posts to slip through, but that these had now been fixed.
He explained: ‘It is absolutely not OK to send racist emojis, or any kind of hate speech, on Instagram’.
A UKFPU statement read: ‘Following England’s defeat against Italy on Sunday a torrent of racist comments aimed at some of the team’s black players appeared on platforms including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
‘A hate crime investigation is under way by the UKFPU, with a dedicated team of investigators working their way through a large number of reports from across the country.
‘So far, dozens of data applications have been submitted to social media companies and four people have been arrested by local police forces.’
Chief Constable Mark Roberts, the National Police Chiefs’ Council football policing lead, said: ‘The racial abuse aimed at our own players following Sunday night’s game is utterly vile and has quite rightly shocked and appalled people across the country.
On Monday night, hundreds of people took the knee beside a repaired mural of Rashford in Withington in a show of support for the striker
Saka is consoled by Gareth Southgate following the penalty shootout in the Euro 2020 final at Wembley on Sunday night
‘Our England team have been true role models during the tournament, conducting themselves with professionalism and dignity.
‘I’m disgusted there are individuals out there who think it’s acceptable to direct such abhorrent abuse at them, or at anybody else.
‘The UKFPU investigation is well under way and work continues to identify those responsible. We are working very closely with social media platforms, who are providing data we need to progress enquiries.
‘If we identify that you are behind this crime, we will track you down and you will face the serious consequences of your shameful actions.’
Andrew Bone, 37, self-presented at Cheadle Heath police station and was subsequently arrested on suspicion of an offence under Section 1 of the Malicious Communications Act, Greater Manchester Police said
The UKFPU said it receives reports from various channels including from local forces, charities, football clubs and other partner organisations.
When an offender’s details are identified, these are passed on to the relevant local force to investigate further and take appropriate action in conjunction with the Crown Prosecution Service.
On Wednesday Greater Manchester Police confirmed a 37-year-old man from Ashton-upon-Mersey had been arrested after social media posts were directed towards England players following Sunday’s match.
Then today, Cheshire Police revealed a 42-year-old man from Runcorn was arrested on suspicion of displaying threatening, abusive or insulting written material that is likely to stir up racial hatred under section 18 of the public order act 1986.
He has since been released under investigation pending further enquires.
Mark Roberts, Chief Constable of Cheshire Constabulary and the NPCC Lead for football policing, said: ‘Hate crime in any form is simply not acceptable.
‘The racial abuse aimed at our own players following Sunday night’s game was totally abhorrent and has quite rightly shocked and appalled people across the country.
‘Those in the England team have been true role models throughout the tournament, conducting themselves with professionalism and dignity.
‘I’m disgusted that there are a number of individuals out there who think it’s acceptable to direct such abuse at them, or at anybody else, and we are working very closely with social media platforms to trace those responsible for these utterly vile messages.
‘I want to make it clear to anyone thinking of doing anything similar that you cannot simply hide behind a computer screen, using pseudo names to conceal your identity – rest assured that we will track you down and you will face the consequences of your reprehensible actions.’
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday that the Government was extending the scope of football banning orders to include online abuse.
Plasterer Brad Pretty filmed himself racially abusing England players during Sunday’s final
Banning orders exclude people from attending matches for between a three and 10-year period.
The Premier League is understood to welcome the move, believing that the orders have been under-utilised in the past.
The UKFPU also said that as of Tuesday, 897 football-related incidents and 264 arrests had been recorded across the country in the 24-hour period surrounding the final.
That brought the total number of football-related incidents during the tournament to 2,344, and the arrests total to 630.
Nick Scott (pictured), 50, is accused of tweeting Manchester-born forward Marcus Rashford and telling him to ‘get to ya own country’
The Metropolitan Police responded to criticism of its handling of Sunday’s final in a statement issued on Wednesday evening, in particular security breaches at Wembley which enabled ticketless individuals to gain entry to the stadium.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Jane Connors said: ‘I do not accept that the policing operation failed and I stand by the difficult decisions made by police officers and the Met’s public order commanders.
‘Without their immediate intervention, it is possible that this game could have been abandoned.’