Prince William backs social media blackout against online abuse | UK News

Prince William in the stands at Wembley Stadium

Prince William has backed the boycott of social media this weekend to protest against online abuse.

The Duke of Cambridge posted on Twitter: “As President of the FA I join the entire football community in the social media boycott this weekend.”

The football-led campaign, which has received the support of leading sports bodies and also been backed by British Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton, started at 3pm on Friday for three days, as a show of solidarity to tackle racism, abuse and discrimination.

Lewis Hamilton
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Lewis Hamilton has backed the social media blackout

The action was launched by English football’s governing bodies – with the FA Women’s Super League, FA Women’s Championship, Professional Footballers’ Association, League Managers Association, PGMOL, Kick It Out, Women in Football and the Football Supporters’ Association all suspending use of their social media accounts.

F1 bosses have discussed joining the blackout with all 10 teams ahead of the Portuguese Grand Prix this weekend, but there are no plans to formally join it.

However, seven-time world champion Hamilton said he would be supporting the campaign.

“To stand in solidarity with the football community, I will be going dark on my social media channels this weekend,” said Hamilton, Formula One’s only black driver, on Instagram – where he has 22 million followers.

“There is no place in our society for any kind of abuse, online or not, and for too long it’s been easy for a small few to post hate from behind their screens.

“While a boycott might not solve this issue overnight, we have to call for change when needed, even when it seems like an almost impossible task,” added the Mercedes driver, who is racing in Portugal this weekend.

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English football to boycott social media

Discussing the campaign, Hamilton told reporters: “I was subjected to abuse a long time ago at a time when I was younger and reading the comments and trying to engage with people.

“There was a period of time where I had to understand you cannot read every comment that is on there and you cannot take it personally. If you let those things get to you, it can really ruin your day.

“I stepped back from it and I generally don’t go searching for that stuff, or for validation. I know I have got amazing support from many fans that follow me and I am grateful for the support I do get.

“For me it is clear that racism continues to be an issue and social media platforms need to do more in order to combat this. There are algorithms and they are able to see things and take steps to create an anti-racist society and that is what we have got to be pushing towards.”

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Other F1 drivers have backed the campaign, including McLaren’s Lando Norris and Williams driver George Russell.

Formula One has issued a statement supporting the boycott, saying: “We continue to work with all platforms and our own audiences to promote respect and positive values and put a stop to racism.”

On the eve of the campaign, former Arsenal forward Thierry Henry said the boycott is a “start” in the fight again racism, and said he wanted supporters to channel the same energy in combatting abuse as they did when they opposed the failed European Super League last week.

Henry, who last month removed himself from social media because of racism and bullying across the platforms, said: “A lot of people are – I’m not saying waking up because everyone was aware of it – but now they’re loud about it and the same energy that they put with the Super League.

“It looks like we’re getting brave into trying to make those big companies answer to the question that we have, and I know it’s not easy also on their side, but that’s your job.

“(What) the world of English football is doing at the minute and what’s going to happen at the weekend, people ask me, ‘Is it enough, the weekend?’

“And I’m like, ‘It’s a start’. You know, you can’t be too greedy from not having anything to that. It’s a start.”

Montreal Impact's head coach Thierry Henry looks on during an MLS soccer game against the New England Revolution in Montreal, Saturday, February 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
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Theirry Henry took himself off social media last month

Since the campaign was launch by English football’s governing bodies, several other organisations have joined including UEFA, England Rugby and the Lawn Tennis Association.

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said: “I urge everyone – players, clubs and national associations – to lodge formal complaints whenever players, coaches, referees or officials are victims of unacceptable tweets or messages.

“We have had enough of these cowards who hide behind their anonymity to spew out their noxious ideologies.”

Other sports have backed the campaign, with governing bodies in cricket, rugby union, rugby league, tennis, darts, horse racing and cycling all boycotting social media at the weekend.

Sponsors such as Adidas, Barclays, Budweiser, Nationwide and Cazoo have backed the campaign, with broadcasters such as Sky Sports, BT Sport and talkSPORT also supporting it.

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