'Fuel for hate': Swansea's Dhanda slams Facebook over abusive messages

  • Player received racist message on Facebook-owned Instagram
  • Anthony Martial is abused online following 1-1 draw at West Brom
Yan Dhanda
Yan Dhanda on the ball against Brentford in the Championship clash in 2020. Photograph: Athena Pictures/Getty Images
Yan Dhanda on the ball against Brentford in the Championship clash in 2020. Photograph: Athena Pictures/Getty Images

Last modified on Mon 15 Feb 2021 00.14 EST

The Swansea City midfielder Yan Dhanda has expressed his anger at Facebook for providing “more fuel for hate” by failing to ban the individual who racially abused him. The account holder has been prevented from sending direct messages “for a set period of time” but Dhanda believes the punishment is inadequate, akin to a “slap on the wrist” and offers no firm deterrent to individuals wishing to send repugnant abuse to players and officials.

Football’s governing bodies continue to lobby social media companies to crackdown on discriminatory abuse and last week sent an open letter to Facebook and Twitter, criticising their “inaction”.

Dhanda, a former Liverpool midfielder, became the latest high-profile player to be abused, with Marcus Rashford, Axel Tuanzebe and the siblings Reece and Lauren James among those targeted by abuse in recent weeks. And following Manchester United’s 1-1 draw at West Brom on Sunday, Anthony Martial received abuse via Instagram, with a number of users posting racist messages and symbols on his photos. Martial, along with his teammate Tuanzebe, was subject to online abuse after their side’s defeat by Sheffield United last month.

On Sunday the Republic of Ireland and Stoke winger James McClean revealed he had been sent death threats via messages on Instagram. Last week McClean called for sectarian abuse to be taken seriously. “Is being abused for being Irish and anti-Irish abuse acceptable?” he said.

South Wales police launched an investigation after Dhanda received a private message following Swansea’s 3-1 defeat against Manchester City on Wednesday but the player has since criticised Facebook, which owns Instagram, for giving people “the green light to go and do it again”.

“The punishment given to the perpetrator actually gives them more fuel for hate as now they know for sure there are no firm consequences to their actions online,” said Dhanda, who is of British Asian background, in a message posted on Twitter on Sunday. “His dm’s may be restricted but the ramifications of his actions continue to ripple through our community.”

Dhanda told the BBC: “Banning someone from sending messages for a few days just proves that these people that are sending the racist messages know there is actually no real punishment. They get a slap on the wrist, and then they can go back to saying and doing whatever they want to hurt people’s feelings and making people think negatively about themselves. Social media companies have to realise that what they are doing is nothing but giving the people who are sending the abuse the green light just to go and do it again.”

Dhanda said he has been left “hurt” and “disappointed” by Facebook’s response and that the anonymity of online profiles, and the subsequent lack of accountability, is a major concern. “You see these social media companies advertising ‘No To Racism’, ‘Kick it Out’, but, when push comes to shove and it’s the reality of people sending racist messages, they are actually doing next to nothing. I believe they’ve banned the guy that racially abused me from sending messages for a couple of days but they’ve not taken his account off him or gone any further than that.”

On Saturday Swansea posted a statement expressing shock at the “leniency” shown by Facebook towards the person who sent Dhanda racial abuse. “The abhorrent level of abuse that we have witnessed this week means that once again we seek stronger action from social media companies in order to stamp this type of toxic behaviour out and we fully back the EFL’s open letter that was sent to Twitter and Facebook in light of recent events.”

Facebook, responding to the Dhanda case last week, said: “We do not want racism and hate on our platforms. The person who sent this message has been restricted from sending messages on Instagram for a set period of time, and we will remove new accounts created to get around this restriction. We think it’s important people have the opportunity to learn from their mistakes but, per the new measures put in place this week, if they continue to break our rules this account will be removed.”

The English Football League, together the Premier League and the Football Association continue to lobby Facebook and Twitter and, in a joint-letter, they called for meetings “to discuss the evidence of abuse on your platforms, the action you are taking, and how you plan to directly address the matters outlined in this letter”. Swansea continue to offer Dhanda their full support. At the time of the incident, Dhanda tweeted: “How can this STILL be happening in 2021? I’m so proud of who I am and representing Asians. More has to be done!”

The Newcastle manager, Steve Bruce, said on Thursday he had been made aware of “vile” social media users wishing him dead, while the referee Mike Dean notified police and asked not to officiate a Premier League game last weekend after receiving death threats on social media.