Thierry Henry has accused social media companies of making “money through hate” and says they are still not doing enough to fight online abuse on their platforms.
The former Arsenal and Barcelona forward has been boycotting all social media platforms since the end of March following a spate of online racist abuse aimed at Black footballers and what he said was the inability of social media companies to hold users accountable for their actions.
His decision prompted a wave of high-profile stars to follow suit, which ultimately led to a widespread social media blackout in the UK from footballers and governing bodies across the weekend of April 30 to May 3.
Speaking at the Web Summit in Lisbon, Henry announced he would be launching a campaign along with his sponsor Puma and the Game of Our Lives foundation to help fight online abuse and put pressure on social media companies to take tougher action.
“When you find that they generate money through hate, it is very difficult when your medicine is your poison,” Henry said, as reported in the Guardian. “Being genuine and being nice doesn’t generate money.
“We need help, we’ve all been touched by it,” he added, as reported by France 24. “Me, as an individual, I’m OK without it [social media]. We need help from people in higher positions. We need to come together to make sure that those people maybe legislate a law that will make those platforms more accountable.
“I don’t think they’re doing anything near what is required for us to feel safe on it. They’re not really trying to change anything.”
In a statement sent to CNN, a Meta spokesperson said: “We have absolutely no commercial incentive, no moral incentive, no company-wide incentive to do anything other than to try to give the maximum number of people as much of a positive experience as possible across our apps, and that is what we do day in and day out.
“The growth of people or advertisers using our apps means nothing if our services aren’t being used in ways that bring people closer together.
“No one should have to experience racist abuse anywhere, and we don’t want it on our apps. We remove hateful content as soon as we find it and respond quickly to valid legal requests to help with police investigations.”
Twitter was not immediately available for comment.
Speaking exclusively to CNN back in May, Henry explained his initial decision to delete all of his social media accounts, which had a combined following of 11 million people, saying that, “When we come together, it’s … powerful.”
“At the very beginning, you know, I was kind of in a weird mood, shall I say, we talked a lot throughout those moments and I was like: ‘People are not realizing what’s at stake here and the problem that we have in this society right now,’” he said.
“But I was always talking and always mentioned the strength of the pack, and sometimes, when you’re alone to scream something, you feel lonely – but I’m not talking about me, I’m talking about the people that don’t have a voice. I’m talking about the people that have been abused, harassed for the way they look, for what they believe in, for the color of their skin on social media.
“Maybe, if I come off social media, as you know, taking a stand for the people that don’t maybe have a voice, maybe you can create a wave because of me coming off social media. People would like to know why, and they wanted to know why. But in the aftermath of it, there was a little period where I was like: ‘Well, it’s kind of a shame that people are not reacting.’”