'It's my normal day-to-day': Sports stars speak out as clubs unite against social media abuse

Video report by ITV News Correspondent Chris Skudder

Former Manchester United and France striker Louis Saha has called for social media companies to be more proactive in tracking down abusers on their platforms.

On the day sports clubs, professionals and brands united to boycott social media in a stand against online abuse, he told ITV News current actions are "not good enough".

If social media platforms can run algorithms to run targeted advertising, he argued, then they can surely identify and combat accounts and users who send hateful, racist or sexist messages.

“Social media has to do something, it has to do better because we are in some way customers and they have to protect us,” he told ITV News.

He said that people are able to easily create anonymous accounts to hide behind and spew abuse.

“They [people who defend the use of anonymous accounts] say the data will be collected, the passports… that’s excuses,” he said.

“Because they have all the information anyway, they use it to use the ads so when you use the ad and you alert people ‘buy this, buy that’, it’s fine.

“But then you tell me that kind of algorithm is not good enough to trace some people? No, this is not good enough.”

'It's not good enough'

Crystal Palace footballer Leigh Nicol agrees social media companies must take action.

She is calling on them to come back with a response, spending the course of this boycott to plan how to properly combat abuse.

Despite her own daily online attacks, Nicol says she is more angered by the vitriol targeted at her fellow professionals.

Over the past three years, the abuse Nicol receives has got worse to the point where she receives nasty direct messages or comments and even graphic images sent by men every day.

She has blocked more than 350 accounts on Instagram and she knows her treatment is wrong, but she told ITV News she believes is “fortunate” that she has “adapted”.

She said: “Now I look at those comments with no emotion, sadly.

“Because it’s just part of my normal day-to-day life and for me to keep moving forward I need to have that mindset.

“But then when I see the abuse that other and particularly sports stars are getting because of race, that really gets to me.

“That gets me down more than my own personal comments, because that’s the way my body deals with it now.”

She added that she counts herself as one of the lucky ones.

Celebrities and other members of the public have taken their lives over online abuse, she pointed out, and she is grateful she can respond in the way she does.

“But I still know that’s not right,” she said, adding they aren’t given support for how to deal with such toxic messages.

“To me, I read them and the damage is done but I need to protect other people,” she added.

“I don’t want children to see those comments.”