Boris Johnson is urging social media firms to take tougher action over racism after the abuse of England footballers, which he described as being “from the dark spaces of the internet”.
The Prime Minister held talks with companies including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in No 10 yesterday, in the wake of the attacks after the team’s loss in the Euro 2020 final.
Downing Street said he would “reiterate the urgent need for action” ahead of the meeting but also had to issue a defence of Mr Johnson and Priti Patel over their earlier responses.
England footballer Tyrone Mings accused the Home Secretary of having managed to “stoke the fire” in the tournament by criticising the team for taking the knee against racism as “gesture politics”.
No 10 said Mr Johnson opened a meeting of his Cabinet yesterday by condemning the racist attacks players were targeted with after Sunday’s match.
“He said the abuse was utterly disgraceful and had emerged from the dark spaces of the internet,” the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said.
“He said he would use today’s meeting with social media firms to reiterate the urgent need for action ahead of tougher laws coming into force through the Online Harms Bill.”
The spokesman added that social media companies should “do everything they can to identify these people”, including handing over details of those who posted racist content.
No 10 said the meeting had been scheduled ahead of the Euro 2020 attacks and also would host representatives from TikTok, Snapchat, Microsoft and Amazon Kids UK.
The abuse has not been confined to the internet, with a mural in south Manchester of Marcus Rashford having been defaced in what police are treating as a racist incident.
Yesterday, hundreds of people took the knee beside the repaired mural in a show of support for the striker. Around 200 people including some with signs reading "Black Lives Matter" made the symbolic gesture beside the recently vandalised artwork.
Yesterday, Arlene Foster reiterated calls for greater accountability from social media companies. Retweeting an article by broadcaster Piers Morgan arguing that “tech giants must ban anonymous accounts to stop racist trolls abusing black stars & getting away with it”, the former first minister said: “This is exactly the point I have been making about anonymous accounts. At the very least the platforms should know who owns the account so abusers can be held accountable.”