Gareth Bale prepared to boycott social media over online abuse

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Gareth Bale says he would be prepared to join a social media boycott to tackle online abuse.

Bale’s international team-mates Ben Cabango and Rabbi Matondo were racially abused on social media after Wales’ friendly victory over Mexico on Saturday.

Last Friday Thierry Henry announced in a statement that he would be disabling his social media accounts, describing current levels of racism and bullying on online platforms as “too toxic to ignore”.

“If it was a campaign where a lot of influential people in sport and other forms of life did it on social media to make a statement then I think it could help. If that was the case I’m all for that.”

Regarding the abuse suffered by Cabango and Matondo, the 31-year-old forward, who is on loan at Tottenham from Real Madrid, said: “It was not nice to wake up on Sunday to hear these things.

“Ben, Rabbi and anyone else knows we are here to talk to them and support them if they need it.

“Something needs to happen in terms of the social media companies, whether it is people getting an account need to put a passport in.

“I think that will stop people saying things because then you will be able to trace them down and hold them accountable.”

Henry has said he will only return to social media “when it’s safe” after highlighting the links between online abuse, mental health issues and suicide.

The former Arsenal, Barcelona and France frontman told Good Morning Britain: “Recently it happened to me off social media, it happened on social media. But recently it’s been coming quite a lot, players getting abused.

Thierry Henry has described current levels of racism and bullying on online platforms as “too toxic to ignore” (Richard Sellers/PA).
Thierry Henry has described current levels of racism and bullying on online platforms as “too toxic to ignore” (Richard Sellers/PA).

“People are getting racially abused but, when you see the statement, I talk also about bullying, harassment that can cause mental issues, people commit suicide because of it.

“It’s very difficult to eradicate everything but can it be safer? We all know that it is a great tool but a lot of people are using it as a weapon. Why? Because they can hide behind fake accounts.

“I know that a little portion of the world are using it as a weapon. ‘Can it be safer?’ is all I am asking. I will be back on it, when it’s safe.”

Henry, who had 2.3m followers on Twitter and a further 2.7m on Instagram, remains unhappy with the response of social media companies and compared the treatment of abusive posts with ones which infringe copyright law, while calling for greater regulation and accountability.

His suggestions for banning anonymous accounts included being required to enter a National Insurance or passport number to sign up.

“Basically I had enough of what I heard as an answer all the time,” he said.

“We all know why: because of the copyright, because money is involved, so it is different.

“Now for that they can create algorithms to make sure that you don’t do it. They will stop you there, they will act strongly there.

“I know people will tell me ‘freedom of speech’ and ‘a word can be used in different ways’.

“But listen, you cannot go in a cinema and shout whatever you want, you can’t shout whatever you want in the street, you can’t shout whatever you want at an airport. You can’t cross the line. All I want is accountability. We need to find out who those people are.”

Henry (right) is Arsenal's record scorer with 228 goals (Gareth Copley/PA)
Henry (right) is Arsenal’s record scorer with 228 goals (Gareth Copley/PA)

“I thought it was time to make a stand and time to make people realise it is not OK to get abused online, it’s not OK to be bullied or harassed online. Enough is enough. We need actions.

“(Crystal Palace forward) Wilfried Zaha says when he goes on social media he is scared to look at the comments, it should not be like that. It should not be like you feel you should not do something.

“I think everybody should be concerned about what’s happening.”

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