Social media and football. Has there ever been a more can’t-live-with-’em-can’t-live-without-’em relationship?
Den and Angie. Bert and Ernie. Kim and Kanye (see, we can be down with the kids too). None could lay claims to be marriages made in heaven. Scratch my back and I’ll stab yours.
Football and social media have a similar partnership. At their best, they entertain and inform users, make clubs more open and players more accessible. Football clubs and the millionaire stars can seem a million miles away from the working-class fan who pays their hard-earned money to support them, but the likes of Twitter and Instagram have brought them closer together and allowed supporters to speak to and engage with their heroes.
Clubs and players gain commercially, so do the Big Tech giants. A two-way, mutually beneficial marriage.
The honeymoon, though, is now well and truly over.
The rise in abuse – racist, sexist, downright spiteful – towards players in particular has meant that football has finally said ‘enough is enough’. There have been solitary boycotts from the likes of Thierry Henry, Rangers and Swansea City, but now in an extraordinary example of unity, all clubs, leagues and players have decided to have a blackout on all social media channels in protest.
At NationalWorld, we called on football to unite and boycott Facebook, Twitter et al three weeks ago, so we welcome the move. It is a powerful statement and while it may not result in any immediate action from the Big Tech, it keeps the pressure on them to update their policies.
Where does the mainstream media fit in to this, though? Let’s not try to con anyone here – newspapers and digital media organisations rely heavily on social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter to promote their content and drive audience to their websites. It is one of the biggest referral sources of traffic we have in the mainstream media, and has caused some consternation over recent years given that reliance.
The question is, should football reporters and media join in the blackout this weekend? Should we stand united with the rest of the football family?
We say: yes, we should. And will.
Full transparency. At NationalWorld, we have a relatively tiny social media reach. We are a month into our existence and the followers are small on the main accounts. For us, a boycott would make little difference compared to other organisations who have hundreds of thousands of people following them and potentially clicking through. The business risk for ourselves is small. It won’t result in a huge loss of audience or revenue like it will for others, who must make their own decisions.
However, if we had 100,000 followers (and hopefully one day we will), I’d still expect us to join the blackout. It’s about doing what we feel is right. At the risk of sounding like a Black Eyed Peas tribute act, we need to educate and eradicate the hate.
It would be hypocritical of us to call for a boycott, to call for unity, and then not act ourselves.
We may only be a tiny voice right now, but if we all shout together then our message will be heard.
Enough is enough.
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