Well done to Thierry Henry for taking a real stand against online abuse (Opinion)

Thierry Henry Is the greatest player I ever saw play for Arsenal, the club I love. Just when I thought he couldn’t do any more, he took action in the fight against racism that I have previously suggested, boycotting social media.

Football Federations rightly will hold up the relevant posters, the likes of Sky Sports will produce montages, some players take the knee before kick off. All with the same message, racism is wrong, yet all are under pressure to put their money where their mouth is.

Anyone can say how terrible something is, but it’s pointless if you do nothing when it happens.

Finally though, it’s not just clubs being put under pressure to show zero tolerance.

Shamefully in 2021 someone being abused online is no longer newsworthy, it’s become an accepted part of our ugly society.

The likes of Facebook and Twitter copy and paste the same line. What the likes of Henry are starting to see is that these billion pound businesses have been saying the same thing for years now. They promise to be looking into ways to regulate their platforms, when in reality it would be very simple to create software where a user has to prove who they are.

They are quick to stop you uploading YouTube videos but do nothing about trolls. That tells you the priority.

Thankfully the likes of Mark Zuckerberg are starting to realise they can no longer get away with it and it’s thanks to the likes of Henry, who has made it clear he’s not opening his account again till he sees regulation.

Henry is a smart man. He’s not just closing his account because he’s grown disgruntled. He’s using his celebrity to try and influence change.

Given he has 2.3 million followers on Twitter and his status in the Sport, he will encourage discussions far more then anyone taking the knee will do. The hope was that it will encourage others to follow in his lead.

The irony is by walking away from social media Henry is doing more to spread awareness then the celebrities who use Social media to promise they are ‘woke’ or sing montages together. I cringed when a year ago Hollywood sang ‘imagine’ in Isolation or took part in a campaign to ‘take responsibility’.

It’s so transparent. Rich people advertising themselves by making a company richer.

That’s not to say those who don’t take part are not genuine in the message, but how does saying something is terrible over and over again change anything if there are not consequences? These celebs are not helping the problem just enabling those responsible.

Lining up 10 A-listers to quote something fancy means nothing if the same platform is not willing to have a zero tolerance towards trolls.

There’s only so much time that people can talk about what is wrong, how bad history is etc, before they get bored. At what point do you discuss a solution? It’s been a couple of years now of a rise in online abuse and everyone saying how sick it is, but never forming an action plan.

Henry is smart enough to know if you do the same things, you get the same results.

Trust me, while a Facebook or Twitter have their image boosted by those using them to spread a message that racism is bad, they care more if big names leave, citing their neglect as a reason.

Of course owners of these sites detest discrimination, most sane humans do, but not enough to change their policies. Like most businesses, the priority is to make as much money as possible. Asking your users to register their details is likely to push away your customers.

The dilemma these corporations face is they realise that many notice that’s the only reason they are slow on alterations is financial. Hence If every current and ex Gunner followed in Henry’s footsteps that’s a lot of less traffic.

Arsenal are not innocent themselves. They took part in ‘blacking out’ their accounts for a day in protest to George Floyd’s death. Yet they continue to work with these companies who are doing nothing to safeguard the likes of Willian, Eddie Nketiah, Aubameyang, Xhaka, etc, who have gone on record about the scale of the abuse.

Arsenal don’t take a stance for the same reason Facebook don’t ask for proof of ID. Social media numbers are part of the revenue streams that clubs now take into consideration.

So all parties in truth are happy with how the model operates and have zero designs to see it change. That’s why it’s down to a Henry to use his profile to make a difference.

Like a company might pay a star to endorse their product, that product loses credibility if a star openly rejects them.

Think how many Gooners use Facebook and Twitter. If they are going to be influenced by anyone it will be by our record goal scorer. At the very least it promotes discussion. Discussion we wouldn’t have had if he followed the majority did nothing.

Every few decades there is a sportsperson who steps up to try and make the world politically better. Henry doesn’t need to, he doesn’t need the money or the need to keep himself relevant. He’s doing this to make the world better.

For that he’s even more of a legend.

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Dan Smith

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