Five people have been arrested in connection with racist abuse towards England football players on social media with the UK’s football policing lead warning those who posted hateful material: “We will track you down.”
Social media companies are handing police the details of accounts involved in racism towards black players including Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka who were subjected to abuse following England’s defeat to Italy in the Euro 2020 final.
Platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have faced criticism for not acting swiftly enough to remove hateful posts following Sunday's game.
The UK Football Policing Unit (UKFPU) said, as of Tuesday, 897 football-related incidents and 264 arrests had been recorded across the country in the 24-hour period surrounding the final.
That took the number of football-related incidents during the tournament to 2,344, and arrests to 630.
Chief Constable Mark Roberts, the National Police Chiefs’ Council football policing lead, said the companies are now “working very closely” with the UKFPU – which is conducting the hate crime inquiry – to identify those responsible.
On Wednesday, Greater Manchester Police confirmed a 37-year-old man from Ashton-Upon-Mersey had been arrested over posts made after the match.
A 42-year-old man from Runcorn is the fifth person to have been questioned, Cheshire Police confirmed on Thursday.
The man was arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of displaying threatening, abusive or insulting written material that is likely to stir up racial hatred under section 18 of the Public Order Act 1986.
He has since been released under investigation pending further inquires.
Mr Roberts said: “The racial abuse aimed at our own players following Sunday night’s game is utterly vile and has quite rightly shocked and appalled people across the country."
He continued: “The UKFPU investigation is well under way and work continues to identify those responsible. We are working very closely with social media platforms, who are providing data we need to progress inquiries.
“If we identify that you are behind this crime, we will track you down and you will face the serious consequences of your shameful actions.”
Instagram has admitted the app had “mistakenly” failed to flag some racist comments but said the issue had been addressed.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would not hesitate to legislate further in order to crackdown on online hate.
Asked about measures to tackle the issue following a speech in Coventry, the prime minister acknowledged the government had “got to go further” than simply extending the scope of football banning orders to include online abuse.
Banning orders exclude people from attending matches for between three and 10 years.
The prime minister met heads of social media companies on Tuesday, warning them that, under the Online Harms Bill, they could face fines amounting to 10% of their global revenue if they did not act to remove hateful and racist abuse from their platforms.
Mr Johnson also apologised for comments he previously made in newspaper columns, when asked if they could have given a “green light” to racist behaviour.
“The best thing I can say about that is I obviously apologise for the things that I have said that have caused offence and continue to apologise for them,” Mr Johnson said.
In an exchange on Twitter Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, admitted that the app “mistakenly” marked some of the comments sent to players as acceptable rather than flagging them for further review by human content moderators.
“We have technology to try and prioritise reports, and we were mistakenly marking some of these as benign comments, which they are absolutely not. The issue has since been addressed,” he said.
“It is absolutely not okay to send racist emojis, or any kind of hate speech, on Instagram. To imply otherwise is to be deliberately misleading and sensational.”