Talksport And Collymore Suspend Twitter Accounts Amid Racism Row

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Talksport says it will not promote Twitter until it takes more responsibility for abusive messages

UK radio station Talksport is to stop promoting Twitter on air, online and in Sport magazine, over dissatisfaction with Twitter’s response to a series of abusive and racist messages sent to presenter Stan Collymore.

Collymore received a stream of death threats abusuive tweets, and Scott Taunton, chief executive of Talksport wrote to complain that Twitter did nothing to stop them. The company – owned by UTV Media – has suspended all of its accounts and will not reactivate them until it feels Twitter is responding appropriately. In addition, Collymore has deleted his personal account.

“We are dismayed at the lack of response and perceived inaction by Twitter. Racist or abusive messages of this nature are illegal and unacceptable,” said Taunton. “We have more than three million Twitter followers across our accounts but we will not promote these until we are satisfied that Twitter is doing its utmost to prevent abuse of this nature.

Talksport action

Stan Collymore © Talksport“We have a duty of care to all our staff and presenters and until I am satisfied that Twitter is treating this seriously we will no longer promote Twitter accounts or use tweets on-air.”

The abusive tweets started on Saturday during the station’s Premier League football coverage when Collymore suggested Liverpool striker Luis Suarez dived against Aston Villa. Collymore received a series of offensive messages, including racist tweets and death threats.

Some of these tweets are being investigated by the police, but Talksport says Twitter should pledge to cooperate fully whenever the company is asked for information on racist, homophobic, sexist, anti-disability or anti-Semitic hate messages.

It says Twitter should respond immediately when such tweets are flagged and delete them as soon as possible. Talksport also says there should be filters in place to prevent hate language from being used on the site.

“It seems inconceivable that a hi-tech company with a market capitalisation of $30bn appears incapable of preventing racist and abusive tweets being broadcast across its platform,” adds Taunton.

Talksport © TalksportTwitter response

Twitter has released a statement concerning abusive messages on its platform, but did not make any specific reference to Collymore or to Talksport.

“Direct, targeted abuse and specific threats of violence are against our rules. You can let us know if you see abusive Tweets by using the new ‘Report Tweet’ button or through our online forms,” says Twitter. “Our Trust and Safety team works 24 hours a day to respond to reports and we are increasing the size of this team to make our response time even faster.”

The company says it has clear processes for working with the police and it takes action when content breaks its rules or is illegal, adding that it has features allowing users to block or unfollow accounts they don’t want to see.

However, Twitter has come under repeated criticism for its response to abusive messages, most notably from Caroline Criado-Perez, who campaigned for women to be featured on UK banknotes. She was subject to abuse, including rape threats, leading to convictions of two of her abusers, and  a successful petition for the introduction of the aforementioned ‘report abuse’ button.

Football has inspired racism on Twitter before. A student was jailed for abusive tweets about Fabrice Muamba after the Bolton player collapsed on the pitch, while police have investigated a number of tweets following penalty misses by Ashley Cole and Ashley Young in England’s defeat to Italy at Euro 2012.

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