A probe by the UK Metropolitan Police into vile racist abuse aimed at an unnamed member of the Tottenham Hotspur squad following the team’s 3-1 home defeat to Manchester United last month has led to eight people being arrested.
A further four people were interviewed under caution by the authorities amid allegations that they used racial terms on social media to abuse the player as part of the authority’s nationwide crackdown on racial abuse online.
The offending tweets were flagged by an online detection tool used by United and subsequently brought to the attention of police.
Commenting on the spate of arrests, Detective Sergeant Matt Simpson, of the public order team, said that the Met Police’s actions should confirm to people that they will do everything in their power to help eliminate the scourge of racist abuse frequently sent to players online.
“This action makes it abundantly clear that police will not stand for racist thuggery, even if it is committed online,” he said.
“The posts, all of which were on Twitter, were vulgar and were utterly unacceptable. There is no safe haven for this type of abusive behaviour and we are committed to taking decisive action to root it out.
“With a busy summer of football approaching, we are committed to driving out this type of racist behaviour – it has no place in football.
“I am delighted with the support we have received from our policing colleagues nationally and from Manchester United and Tottenham. Without them, it would be difficult to identify these users and take action.“
The timing of the arrests comes just weeks after many major Twitter accounts from Premier League clubs, the FA and elsewhere announced a three-day social media blackout to highlight the ongoing issue.
Every Premier League game this season has also seen players from each side take a knee prior to kick-off as a gesture in opposition to racial inequality.
Online racism watchdog Kick It Out, meanwhile, say that the arrests will show that there is a zero tolerance policy when it comes to cracking down on anonymous trolls on social media and send “a powerful message that online abuse is unacceptable and those found guilty will face real-life consequences“.
“Social media has become a vehicle for inappropriate behaviour on a societal level and certain people think it’s okay to send abusive messages,” said Kick It Out CEO Tony Burnett.
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“We have to make sure we create an environment where online abuse is punished and the perpetrators are identified as much as possible.
“These arrests demonstrate the police’s commitment to tackling online abuse and we hope this sends a message to others so they think twice before posting discriminatory abuse.
“It’s also important that we remain focused on the welfare of those who play, watch and work in football, and receive abuse, and we will continue to offer our support to those who need it.”
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