TEENAGER Patrick O’Brien was so upset at losing a Fifa video game, he sent Ian Wright 20 racist messages on Instagram.
Wright recoiled. O’Brien later asked his forgiveness. Well he would, wouldn’t he?
His solicitor in Tralee District Court said he was a good boy in school. Well, he would, too, wouldn’t he?
He pleaded that the judge should put him on probation. Which he did, didn’t he?
Wright, an outstanding commentator and wonderful footballer, speaks more common sense than a dozen of those judges and solicitors.
He said he accepts O’Brien’s apologies but that didn’t alter the fact that he was disappointed his abuser has hardly been inconvenienced by his punishment.
I’ll say it for Wright. O’Brien should have been jailed.
The judge had an opportunity to set a deterrent and a precedent, but instead brushed this vileness aside as if it meant nothing.
And so, the abuse continues.
In our most depressing week in football Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford, Axel Tuanzebe and Anthony Martial were all targeted, as was Southampton midfielder Alex Jankewitz.
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Rashford described the abuse as “humanity and social media at its worst”.
And I can assure you whatever you have read, it will only be the tip of the iceberg of what these young men, and many others, are being subjected to.
Two things become clear to me. First, we will get nowhere by pussyfooting around racism.
It is dehumanising, humiliating and cowardly and must be treated as a most serious crime, ranked alongside assault at least.
Wright said: “An individual wished death on me because of my skin colour.
“No judge’s claims of ‘naivety’ or ‘immaturity’ will be acceptable to us.”
I advise social media companies to set about catching everyone or, better, forcing people to identify themselves to send messages.
Second, it is time the Government got tough with online social media companies, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and the rest, to ensure they act responsibly.
Twitter, which has more than 330 million users and is valued at more than £30billion, takes no liability for comments made on its platform.
They insist they are just “enabling communications” rather than publishing content — a crucial distinction which means they are not liable for trolling or abuse.
Tell that to anyone, myself included, who has been on the wrong end of violent abuse, threats of rape or murder, or racism.
If you report someone on Twitter their account may be blocked. But the troll simply sets up another account, in another name with another email address, and the abuse continues.
So, I advise social media companies that instead of making noises about independence of views and the difficulties in rooting out these creatures, you should set about catching everyone or, better, forcing people to identify themselves when they send messages.
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On the basis they think they can hide anonymously behind their keyboards, making it easy to identify them so they can be held responsible for their words will have the biggest deterrent of all.
As for the abusers themselves, you are despicable.
All 20 Premier League clubs have united and we are determined to make eliminating you, and your abuse, a priority.
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