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Sir Mo Farah insists it is time big tech firms helped unmask online racists so they can be shamed

Monday July 19, 2021

Britain’s most successful Olympic track athlete, Sir Mo Farah, says he has received ‘shocking’ abuse on social media and insists the racists need to be shamed publicly for their online behaviour.

The quadruple Olympic gold medallist says he has often been told to ‘go home’ by online trolls and believes the problem is growing worse.

He told the BBC that now big tech firms, like Twitter and Instagram, need to do more to tackle the tide of abuse.

Sir Mo Farah is one of Britain's greatest athletes, but he has been abused online by racists

‘It seems like it’s getting worse in my honest opinion because back in my time, shall we say, there was never as much social media. I’ve had some shocking ones, certain things to say, ‘you don’t belong’. I’ve had quite a bit.’

Asked if he has ever had people say ‘go back home, he replied: ‘I’ve had that before, yeah.’

‘To me this is my home,’ he added. ‘I’ve always thought about it.’

Farah was born in Mogadishu, Somalia, lived as a refugee in Djibouti after his family fled the war-torn country, and moved to Britain aged eight, where he developed his passion and talent for running.

He spoke out after England footballers, Bukayo Saka, Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford, received vile racist abuse online when England lost in the Euro 2020 final to Italy on penalties.

Farah won four Olympic golds medals and six World Championship golds, plus many records

The trio all missed their spot kicks and were immediately abused via their social media accounts.

It has since emerged that England’s 26-man squad has received a deluge of abusive and hateful messages during the four-week tournament. The analytics company, Crisp, estimated the players’ accounts were targeted with 12,500 abusive messages from 10,000 accounts.

However, the racism aimed at the penalty takers following a highly successful tournament, albeit one that ended in disappointment, has shocked the nation with the Prime Minister Boris Johnson calling on social media firms to ‘up their game’ and deal with the racist trolls.

Nineteen-year-old Bukayo Saka was consoled by Gareth Southgate as penalties came back to haunt the manager who missed his spot kick as a player at the semi-finals of Euro 1996

In online abuse, one user wrote, 'Foreigners are stupid,' seemingly choosing to ignore that Saka was born in Ealing, west London

Farah developed his passion for running in Britain, growing up in Hounslow, becoming one of the country’s greatest ever athletes. He is the 2012 and 2016 Olympic gold medalist in both the 5000 m and 10,000 m and has won six World Championship golds, plus a sackful of other victories and records.

He agrees that more needs to be done to protect people online since current reporting mechanisms are not effective. He thinks it is time to make people verify their accounts so they can be held publicly accountable if they abuse others.

‘The social media companies need to do a lot more,’ he said. ‘They have to be held to account for what people get up to.

Marcus Rashford, left, and Jadon Sancho have their heads in their hands after missing their kicks

‘Even myself, I have had some shocking ones, where people see the message and I’ve gone delete, I’ve blocked, I’ve gone report, gone back to the report and nothing’s been done. Nothing happens.

‘With technology now, as soon as words have been said they should automatically freeze and then the government should be able to see what they can do.

Farah described the abuse he received as 'shocking'

‘How do we make it even harder for these people. So, when you sign up you put your passport details in your driving licence, your address, so automatically you are there.

‘These people have jobs and have family to feed. They might be quite high up in their jobs, so their company should be aware of what they have been up to. Let’s shame them in the ways that we can.’

The UK Football Policing Unit (UKFPU) yesterday provided an update on its investigation following abusive posts targeting Rashford, Sancho and Saka in the wake of the Three Lions' defeat to Italy.

Three of the suspects have already been publicly identified - plasterer Brad Pretty, 49, from Folkestone, Kent; estate agent Andrew Bone, 37, from Sale, Cheshire; and children's football coach Nick Scott, 50, from Powick, Worcestershire.

A fourth suspect, a 37-year-old man from Ashton-upon-Mersey in Greater Manchester, was then arrested yesterday, officials said, before a fifth, a 42-year-old man from Runcorn was then detained by police in Cheshire today.

An FA  spokesman said: 'The FA strongly condemns all forms of discrimination and is appalled by the online racism that has been aimed at some of our England players on social media'

Meanwhile, the social media companies have handed over personal details of those accused of sharing racist posts online after England's Euro 2020 final penalty shootout.

Twitter and Facebook have been 'working very closely' with investigating police officers, who say they are digging into dozens of people's racist tweets after five people were arrested in the wake of Sunday's final.

The tech giants will provide names, emails and IP addresses of users who are believed to have sent discriminatory messages if requested by the authorities, the Times reports.


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