Course Director joins Football Against Racism in Europe Expert Steering Group
The world was briefly united against the common enemy of COVID-19 in 2020 as stories of love and kindness rippled throughout social media. Videos of Britons clapping in admiration and support of our wonderful NHS staff illustrated national unity in the face of the pandemic.
This love and support was briefly mirrored in the outpourings of grief following the murder of George Floyd. This tragedy, one of many, led to the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement which gathered pace across the world. This marked a key moment in the history of race relations as people of all backgrounds joined together in marches against systemic racism, racialised injustice and police brutality.
As an academic who focuses on online communication, I am interested in understanding how socio-political events and moments are received and discussed on social media. Sadly, although COVID-19 and the murder of George Floyd should have united people against two very different pandemics, these moments of unity were short lived as online hate has significantly increased in volume over the last year.
Between February and April 2020, Twitter saw a ‘300% increase in the use of hashtags that encourage violence against China and Chinese people’ in the wake of COVID-19 (Manavis, 2020) while racist abuse directed at footballers, ex-professionals and pundits, for example, has become a weekly, and even daily, news story.
How do we turn the tide? How can we challenge racism and discrimination online? What role can we play? These questions routinely occupy my thinking and when the opportunity to partner with Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) presented itself, I was always going to take it.
FARE is an umbrella organisation that brings together networks to challenge inequality and use sport for positive social change. FARE’s network includes 5,000 organisations across 60 countries. FARE was recently awarded a Google Impact Challenge grant allowing them to set up an expert steering group, which I was appointed to in March 2021. This Google funded project investigates football, social media and extremism across 10 European countries. It will investigate the volume of online extremism and discrimination, analyse the causal factors, and attempt to challenge it.
As an academic, and activist, this partnership with FARE provides the perfect opportunity to put my research and ideas into action and attempt to enact positive change. For example, in May 2021, the expert steering group and I met with analytics company, Textgain, to help inform a tool that monitors and allows for easier reporting of extremism and/or discrimination at football matches. Longer term, we will assist in the production of a manual that will help identify and deconstruct extremist narratives within football which will then be disseminated to relevant stakeholders such as football coaches, clubs and associations.
It is a project that I am thankful to be part of. FARE is an organisation committed to social change with an impressive global reach. The fellow experts appointed to the steering group provide a wealth of knowledge, skills and expertise and it is truly an exciting project to be a part of as it has the potential to ‘change the game’, protect victims of online discrimination, and reduce online extremism and hate.
- Manavis, S. (2020) Covid-19 has caused a major spike in anti-Chinese and anti-Semitic hate speech, The New Statesmen. Available at: https://www.newstatesman.com/science-tech/social-media/2020/04/covid-19-coronavirus-anti-chinese-antisemitic-hate-speech-5g-conspiracy- theory (last accessed 16 February 2021)
Dan's research interests include anti-racism, social media and sport. His book 'Sport and Discrimination' draws on examples from football, rugby, cricket, tennis, climbing, the Olympics and the Paralympics to explore racism, sexism, homophobia, disability and the role of the media in both perpetuating and tackling discrimination in sport.