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‘It happens every year’: UK trolling ignites concerns about racist abuse of AFL, NRL players

The racist abuse in the UK has drawn widespread condemnation from prominent figures including Prince William and Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and sparked new calls for action against the individuals involved.

One British government source reportedly said: “We want real-life consequences for the people who are tweeting this abuse.” The British government is seeking information on the account holders.

Prominent targets of trolling and so-called “volumetric attacks” in Australia include human rights lawyer Nyadol Nyuon and Carlton football player Eddie Betts.

eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant.

eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

Jordan Guiao from the Centre for Responsible Technology said the eSafety Office has recognised a massive increase in online abuse and harm over the last few years that outstrips any ability to enforce the rules.

“Enforcement is not enough.” said Guiao. “The update to the law is to encourage a culture of safety.”

Experts say much of abuse targeting indigenous AFL players and those of African descent in Britain is sent through private messaging, making it harder for the players to deal with it, as the victims have to engage with it in order to report it.

In April, two New South Wales men were arrested for posting racial abuse directed at NRL fullback Latrell Mitchell, who reported the trolling. The duo were charged for using a carriage service to menace, harass or cause offence.

Facebook, which fiercely contested the federal government’s media bargaining code, said it “strongly supports” the updated Online Safety Act.

The social media giant said has also been working with the AFL and other sports leagues, anti-discrimination organisations, and public figures to develop and roll out “tools to help people combat abuse in their comments and DM’s [direct messages]”

Twitter said the “abhorrent racist abuse directed at England players ” over the weekend “has absolutely no place on Twitter” and that it had removed 1000 tweets and permanently suspended accounts.

The San Francisco-based platform said it supports the goals of Online Safety Act but regulating online “content requires striking a balance between protecting from harm while preserving human rights, including freedom of expression, privacy, and procedural fairness.”

Twitter is reviewing the final version of the legislation, and working with the eSafety Commissioner as the law is implemented.

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