THIS WEEKEND English football is coming together with sports and other organisations, to boycott social media and demand change to #StopOnlineAbuse. A range of organisations will be switching off their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts, from 3pm Friday 30 April to 11.59pm on Monday 3 May.

I support the stand taken this weekend by the sports sector to stop online abuse. The main focus is to prompt the giant social media corporations to act. However, I think that smaller measures can and should be taken by all of us to try and reduce the potential for online abuse to flourish. We each have to make an effort so that bad manners, discourtesy and rudeness become traits that are not tolerated on social media.

On Facebook in particular, then toxic language and abuse in posts and comments should be actively filtered, countered and removed by Admins. Facebook seems to bring out the worst in people with rudeness and discourtesy becoming the norm. A nasty atmosphere is created that in turn can encourage those who want to spread hate, abuse and bully others. It becomes too easy to jump on somebody’s comment or post when you disagree, and give them ‘a keyboard hiding’. Teasing, sarcastic, bitter remarks and language and ‘shouting’ at those you disagree with, have become acceptable on Facebook; but of course would not be tolerated in a real-life face-to-face discourse between people.

Freedom of speech is important online, but it shouldn’t give the right of people to be abusive to others. I personally don’t think a social media boycott will make that much difference, rather it leaves the field open to those who don’t give a damn. However, if this prompts Admins and members of Facebook groups and pages to make a difference in this regard, then it is worthwhile. Small but simple steps can reduce tensions, bitterness and help to make Facebook more of a constructive place.

I will be taking a 4-day break from Facebook (and Twitter) from 3pm today Friday 30 April to Midnight on Monday 3 May in support of colleagues in the sports sector. – Ray Duffill, Editor (personal capacity).

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