MARVIN BARTLEY has called on all social media companies to introduce mandatory verification in order to stamp out the scourge of anonymous online abuse.
An increased spotlight has been shone on the vile racist abuse many high-profile footballers are forced to endure, particularly on Twitter and Facebook, following a spate of incidents.
Disgusting attacks on Axel Tuanzebe, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Reece James, Wilfried Zaha, Patrick van Aanholt, David McGoldrick and Yan Dhanda have all been reported in recent weeks.
That prompted ‘English football’ — including Richard Masters, CEO of the Premier League, Mark Bullingham, CEO of the English Football Association and Trevor Birch, the CEO of the English Football League — to pen an open letter to Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter, and Mark Zuckerberg, the founder, chairman and CEO of Facebook, calling for action.
And Bartley speaks from experience, having been the subject of hate speech via Twitter and in person, with the latter recorded on Snapchat and widely shared and viewed.
He said: “Social media companies must do a lot more. That is something I’m extremely passionate about — I don’t think they are doing enough.
“I don’t think they have gone nearly far enough in terms of what they need to do.
“Accounts need to be verified, the same way as if you start a new e-mail account then you receive a text message to prove it is linked to your phone.
“We need to do that with social media. Every single account needs to verified and if you don’t have a passport or a driving license, the make it your bank card or phone.
“If you don’t have any of those then the parents should be forced to verify the account, so there is some accountability.
“At this moment in time it is far too easy to go online, racially abuse someone and get away with it by simply shutting down the account.”
Death threats aimed at Stoke City winger James McClean have also been highlighted this week, including his wife, Erin, sharing an Instagram message that threatened to set his family home on fire.
The Ireland internationalist has become the focus of regular vitriol since deciding not to wear a poppy on his shirt.
And Bartley continued: “I read about James’ story and that is very disturbing — just because he has different views from someone else, for them to think it’s okay for them to say what they did.
“I don’t know how he would have felt at home thinking: ‘is this person really going to come and set fire to my house’.
“These things are not acceptable, but people are sending them anonymously then closing the accounts. They are almost ghost accounts, with nothing attached to them. There needs to be some accountability.”
Meanwhile, Livingston captain Bartley has told Sky Sports News that he will continue to take the knee prior to matches, emphasising that it remains a key part of keeping the conversation alive with regards to the fight for equality.
English Championship club Brentford recently announced that they would no longer make the gesture before their games, feeling the message has lost its potency.
Bartley added: “I disagree with that. But it’s about opinions and I’m always willing to to listen to people explain to me why they think that.
“It’s vitally important that we get the reasons why we are doing it [taking the knee] out there. It’s not political — we are coming from the place of wanting to stop racism.
“We are taking the knee and people are talking about it so, for me, it’s still working.”