Barcelona's Lionel Messi joins football's social media boycott

Lionel Messi joins football’s social media boycott and demands action is taken against online trolls… as Facebook faces another accusation of ignoring discrimination after they refused to act when a Premier League star was sent monkey emojis

  • Barcelona star Lionel Messi has shown his support for the social media boycott 
  • Facebook, who own Instagram, have been accused of refusing to act on abuse 
  • A Premier League player was abused and was sent a series of monkey emojis
  • The club however were told it did not breach Facebook’s community rules

Lionel Messi has thrown his weight behind British football’s social media boycott and urged the major platforms to take immediate action against perpetrators of online abuse.

It comes as Facebook, who own Instagram, were once again accused of turning a blind eye to discrimination after it emerged the social media giant refused to act on a report of racism from a Premier League club.

Football united this weekend in a blackout of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter that included clubs and players from the Premier League and Football League, as well as FIFA, UEFA and broadcasters BT Sport and Sky Sports, in a bid to put pressure on the social media companies to do more to stop the rising tide of abuse.

Lionel Messi has thrown his weight behind British football’s social media boycott this weekend

It comes as Facebook were once again accused of turning a blind eye to discrimination

A post shared by Leo Messi (@leomessi)

The Mail on Sunday has been told that a Premier League club last week reported to Facebook, via a company who help them monitor their social media channels for abuse, that one of their players had been targeted, including being sent a series of monkey emojis.

The club were told it did not breach Facebook’s community rules. Only when they asked the Premier League to report it again on their behalf did Facebook remove the emojis. The offending account no longer exists. The club have asked Facebook why they did not take action initially but they are yet to hear a response.

Barcelona star Messi is the seventh-most followed person on Instagram in the world and on Saturday night urged his 200 million followers to demand social media companies take action.

A Premier League player was sent monkey emojis but his club were told the abuse did not breach Facebook’s community rules

‘I believe the moment has arrived for us to realise that there is a flesh and blood person behind every profile, someone who laughs, cries, enjoys, suffers, human beings with feelings.

‘Nobody deserves to be ill-treated or insulted. We see and experience increasingly worse abuse on social media and nobody is doing anything to prevent it.

‘We should condemn this hostility in the strongest possible terms and demand that the social media networks take urgent measures against this behaviour.’

Messi paid credit to English football for starting the movement and added: ‘I would like the 200 million people that accompany me online to become 200 million reasons to make social media a safe place of respect where we can share what we want to without fear of being insulted, or have to face racism, abuse and discrimination.’

Barcelona star Messi is the seventh-most followed person on Instagram in the world

Messi paid credit to English football for starting the social media blackout movement

Growing pressure has forced Facebook to act. Following talks with players, they are introducing a tool that filters any direct message requests on Instagram that contain offensive words, phrases and emojis. They also plan to make it harder for someone a player has blocked from contacting them again through a new account.

A Facebook spokesperson told The Mail on Sunday: ‘No one should have to experience abuse anywhere, and it’s against our policies to harass or discriminate against people on Instagram or Facebook. We have already made progress on many of the players’ suggestions, including taking tougher action against people breaking our rules in DMs [direct messages].

‘Starting next week, we’ll provide new tools to help prevent people seeing abusive messages from strangers. We continue to work with UK police on hate speech, and respond to valid legal requests for information, which can be essential for investigations.

‘We’ll continue listening to feedback and keep fighting hate and racism on our platform.



The sport’s authorities kicked off the boycott plans last Saturday night, in response to a rising tide of online hate aimed at players, managers and pundits.

Clubs across the Premier League, EFL, Women’s Super League and Women’s Championship will switch off their accounts. 

Governing bodies’ central accounts – such as those belonging to the Premier League, the Football Association, the WSL, the EFL, the Professional Footballers’ Association, the League Managers Association and the Football Supporters’ Association are also involved, as are anti-discrimination bodies Kick It Out and Show Racism The Red Card.

Clubs and governing bodies across Scottish football have also now pledged to support the boycott.


The England and Wales Cricket Board announced on Wednesday that it, the 18 first-class counties, the eight women’s regional teams and the Professional Cricketers’ Association were joining the boycott.

Rugby union

The Rugby Football Union stands in solidarity with the football and cricket authorities, and its accounts for England Rugby, the Allianz Premier 15s, the Championship and GB7s will all suspend activity, it was confirmed on Thursday. Clubs in the Gallagher Premiership announced they were boycotting social media the previous day, with the support of the Rugby Players’ Association.


The Lawn Tennis Association announced on Monday its intention to stand with football in support of the boycott.


Sportswear giant Adidas – which manufactures more than a third of Premier League kits – is stopping all advertising across its platforms. Barclays, which sponsors the WSL, will support the blackout, with no social media posts on the Barclays Football pages of Facebook and Instagram nor the Barclays Footy Twitter account, while the company’s other social channels will avoid all football-related activity.

England football team sponsor Budweiser has signed up, while online car retailer Cazoo – which sponsors Everton and Aston Villa – became the first major sponsor to announce its support of the boycott on Tuesday.  

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