After Bukayo Saka missed a penalty kick for England’s national team on Sunday in the final of the European soccer championship, he and several teammates were overwhelmed by a wave of racist abuse.
On Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, people posted monkey emojis and racist epithets to insult Saka, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho, all Black players who missed their penalty kicks in the shootout against rival Italy. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Prince William and others swiftly decried the ugly eruption of racist commentary, especially against a team that had come to symbolize England’s racial diversity.
On Thursday, Saka, 19, spoke out for the first time since Sunday’s final. In a statement on Twitter, he condemned the online bigotry he and his fellow players have faced. After saying how disappointed and sorry he was with the loss, Saka took aim at Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, urging them to do more to crack down on the abuse.
“To the social media platforms Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, I don’t want any child or adult to have to receive the hateful and hurtful messages that me, Marcus and Jadon have received this week,” Saka wrote. “I knew instantly the kind of hate that I was about to receive and that is a sad reality that your powerful platforms are not doing enough to stop these messages.”
Saka’s comments added to growing calls for the platforms to take action against hate speech.
On Wednesday, Mr. Johnson said he had warned representatives from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and Snapchat that they would face fines under Britain’s planned online safety legislation if they failed to remove hate speech and racism from their platforms.
England’s Football Association also released a statement saying that “social media companies need to step up and take accountability and action to ban abusers from their platforms, gather evidence that can lead to prosecution and support making the platforms free from this type of abhorrent abuse.”
Facebook, which owns Instagram, said it was removing comments and accounts that have directed abuse at England’s team and was providing information to law enforcement authorities. Four people have been arrested over online racist attacks aimed at England’s players, British police said on Thursday.
Twitter said it had removed more than 1,000 tweets and permanently suspended “a number of accounts” for violating its rules.
Facebook and Twitter have long had trouble grappling with hate speech on their platforms. Last year, during the Black Lives Matter movement and just months before the presidential election, civil rights groups called on advertisers to boycott Facebook if it did not do more to tackle toxic speech and misinformation on its site.
The issue became especially heated last year ahead of the presidential election, when President Donald J. Trump spread falsehoods about voting and made veiled threats against lawmakers. In January, after a violent mob stormed the U.S. Capitol, Twitter and Facebook barred Mr. Trump from their platforms for speech that they said had the potential of inciting more violence.