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DUP’s Lockhart slams social media companies for response to racist abuse towards England players

DUP MP criticises language of Home Secretary Priti Patel over knee ‘gesture’ remarks

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Carla Lockhart (Niall Carson/PA)

Carla Lockhart (Niall Carson/PA)

Carla Lockhart (Niall Carson/PA)

The DUP MP Carla Lockhart has said it is “disgraceful” social media companies and the government are not doing more after three England football players were racially abused following Sunday’s Euro 2020 final.

The Upper Bann MP urged the government to tackle the problem of anonymity online, adding comments last month from Home Secretary Priti Patel around fans booing England players taking the knee were not “the best choice of words”.

Ms Lockhart has been a vocal campaigner for tackling online abuse, having previously called for verification technology to be introduced to combat the harassment of women online.

There has been widespread outrage after English players Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka were racially abused online following England’s dramatic penalty shootout loss to Italy in Sunday’s final.

The trio were subjected to racist messages and emojis left on their social media accounts, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson urging those behind the messages to “crawl back under a rock”.

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Ms Lockhart said it was an “absolute shame and disgrace” social media platforms and the government were not doing more to tackle the issue.

“This just keeps on happening and happening again. I think the young men have handled it very well,” she told the BBC’s Good Morning Ulster.

“I think the way Marcus Rashford has conducted himself... and came out saying that he won't apologise for who he is, sends a really strong message.

“I do hear the calls for young black players maybe not to play for England again. I don’t want that to be the case. I want them to be able to play and I don’t want them subjected to this kind of abuse.

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A mural of England striker Marcus Rashford was covered in offensive graffiti. Credit: Getty Images

A mural of England striker Marcus Rashford was covered in offensive graffiti. Credit: Getty Images

Getty Images

A mural of England striker Marcus Rashford was covered in offensive graffiti. Credit: Getty Images

“The Online Harms Bill is coming before parliament towards the end of this year. My fear with it is that it doesn’t tackle anonymity, and anonymity is the biggest problem on social media.

“I think of many young people, young females particularly, who are subject to this kind of abuse who are maybe not able to shake it off.

“Probably Northern Ireland is leading the way with the very high-profile legal cases from Stephen Nolan and Arlene Foster in the last number of months.

“I have noted on Twitter particularly over the last number of weeks since Stephen's intervention, a real pull back, particularly on the politics side of things.”

Following England’s defeat, Three Lions player Tyrone Mings criticised the Home Secretary Priti Patel for her condemnation of the racist abuse faced by his teammates, after she called players taking the knee “gesture politics” in an interview last month.

Patel had also tweeted that racist abuse was “vile” and added: “It has no place in our country and I back the police to hold those responsible accountable.”

The DUP’s Carla Lockhart said it was “not something I would have said”.

“I think if it helps raise awareness it is important we take any steps we can to raise awareness and stomp it out. I think Priti would need to think on her language.

“I don’t think it was the best choice of words in that instance.”


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