Jordan Henderson was one of a number of footballers to discuss online abuse with the UK Government ahead of a bill to hold social media platforms to account.
While the passion and loyalty of fans underpin football and sport around the world, there also exists a dark underbelly of threats and abuse across social media.
Cyber-bullying and abuse have risen in prominence in the modern age, with those in the public arena targeted for the smallest of mistakes, primarily by anonymous accounts.
Social media has offered a grey area in the law as to how to tackle online threats and abuse, but an Online Harms Bill is to be presented before UK parliament this year.
The bill will require social media companies to treat online abuse the same as discrimination on the streets and in the stands, and it was a key talking point in an online round table as part of a series of ‘Future of Football’ discussions.
Henderson was present alongside the likes of Aston Villa‘s Tyrone Mings, Watford‘s Troy Deeney and Liverpool Women’s Rinsola Babajide in the discussions with Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden and Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston.
They each shared their experience with online abuse and those faced by their teammates across the men’s and women’s game, and the Liverpool captain was “pleased” with the response from the government in an area of such importance.
“The meeting was very important,” Henderson said, via the Telegraph. “I’m pleased that those with power and authority to enact change realise the seriousness of the abuse towards players.”
With various stories shared by current and former players, Dowden insisted his resolve to enact change has been “strengthened” to ensure there is greater accountability in the eyes of the law.
“Their input today has strengthened my resolve to bring in new laws to ensure there is much greater accountability from the social media platforms for dealing with such problems,” Dowden said.
It is certainly a step in the right direction as abuse of any kind cannot be tolerated and one welcomed by the players union.
One instance of abuse late last year close to home saw Neco Williams black out his Twitter account after being subjected to unnecessary and ugly criticism after a League Cup outing, prompting Pepijn Lijnders to respond strongly with a message of his own.
“The only thing I can say is that abuse is wrong, whether it is on social media or on the street. It’s wrong,” he said back in 2020.
“Second, you are not a Liverpool supporter if you don’t support.”