Social media boycott 'not a one-off' if things don't improve says jockeys' chief
The regular abuse of jockeys on social media prompted the Professional Jockeys Association (PJA) to join a four-day sportswide boycott of social media last weekend and further action hasn't been ruled out if platforms fail to take action against its users.
PJA chief executive Paul Struthers admitted the football-led boycott had taken place on a premier weekend for racing by comparison to other sports, but felt the collective desire to show support from the likes of the BHA and the racing media made the move necessary.
The boycott, which ran from 3pm on Friday to 11.59pm on Monday, was aimed at putting pressure on social media firms who “must do more to stop online abuse” on issues such as discrimination and hate speech, according to a statement from the Premier League.
Struthers said: “When football announced its boycott and that other sports were going to follow suit we were keen to join because of the level of abuse jockeys receive on a daily basis. The football boycott wasn’t based solely on discriminatory abuse but that was a big part of it and we stand with them on that.
“Doing it on that weekend for racing was a challenge as it was the start of the Flat jockeys’ championship, you had the Punchestown festival and it was obviously the Guineas and the Kentucky Derby as well.
"For other sports it was more of a bog-standard weekend so we didn’t feel that in isolation we could have come out and joined it, but when others in the sport were keen to add their support it made the decision a lot easier.”
Struthers said that, while the PJA had publicly backed the boycott, there had been no pressure on members to do the same, and as such he had been pleased with the level of engagement in the shutdown from riders and others within racing.
“We had jockeys contacting us on Friday asking if we were going to support the boycott as they wanted us to,” he said. “We told the riders that we knew it was a big weekend but the PJA would be supporting the boycott and asked if they would do so too, while respecting it was an individual decision and it was not forced on anyone.”
Figures from across sport have outlined how social media companies will continue to be challenged until action is taken on online abuse, and Struthers expects racing to be a part of that.
He said: “I feel [the abuse] has got worse on social media in the last 12 months and it’s not good enough what these firms are doing to try and stop it; this is an important issue they have to deal with.
“For example, on Friday morning a jockey, and I’m not going to say who, received abusive comments from someone that has done it to them before regarding their children with the hashtag RIP. The jockey had reported this to the social media firms and nothing had been done about it.
“This boycott is not a one-off and is something that will keep happening until these companies do something about it.”
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