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Catching Up with Liverpool and England Star Jordan Henderson to Discuss the Problem of Online Abuse

Cybersmile and Jordan previously worked together on our recent 'People Not Profiles' campaign which directly educated over 22,000 people on how to use safety tools online and provided support to more than 3,000 people affected by online related problems. If you are affected by anything touched on within this article, follow the links to our various support services or click on the blue logo icon at the bottom right of the screen to start using Cybersmile Assistant, our smart AI support assistant. Thanks to The FA and England for supplying the image for this interview.

In the media there is a lot of conversation around the problem of online abuse and hate-speech within the football community – just how common and widespread is the problem of hate-speech and abuse? 

I think I should start by saying that there is no place for any online abuse, regardless of whether it’s aimed at footballers or anyone else – even just one person getting abused online is one person too many so we know that it’s a wider problem than just the football community.

As footballers, we know we’re in the public eye a great deal and therefore any abuse that comes in our direction is also given greater exposure – but there’s no way anyone should be abused for doing their job, regardless of whether they’re a footballer who has had a bad game or anyone else. People often forget that we’re human beings as well as footballers – hate speech and abuse affect us just as much as anyone else.

What changes would you like to see social media platforms make to address the problem?

I don’t profess to have the answers here but it would be great to hold those abusing others to account. There has to be consequences for their actions in the same way there is in real life. Can we also get to a place where we cut off the oxygen of the abusers? How can we hide or block their comments from even seeing the light of day? The platforms are the ones benefitting from having the millions of users that they have got so they need greater pressure from government or whoever to deal with the abuse that they provide the platform to.

Do you think football fans can do anything to help the situation?

I don’t think only football fans should be singled out – it’s a wider societal issue which needs lots of different parties pulling together to make meaningful change. I think one thing everyone can do is make sure that all abuse is getting reported – if we keep calling it out every time we see it then it will keep the pressure on those responsible to make changes to improve the situation.

Do you think that a clear line exists between opinion or criticism and outright abuse?

I think so, there’s criticism in all walks of life and professions but that doesn’t mean it needs to be abusive. If I’ve had a bad game you bet your life on it that I’ll know that more than anyone who is commenting on my social media channels. They’ve got every right to voice their opinion as I do on other things in life outside of football – as long as it’s done in a constructive manner without becoming abusive then that’s just part of living in a democratic society.

As a club captain, how does it make you feel to see online abuse and hate-speech being targeted at and affecting your team-mates?

I feel a sense of responsibility to do something about it – why wouldn’t I? Not just as a captain but as a human being, if there’s something happening which is affecting you or people around you then why would you not do something to help?

Do you think social media is a blessing or a curse?

The answer is probably somewhere in the middle. Undoubtedly social media has the power to bring people together, to connect people and to improve people’s lives but there is a dark side to it. The toxicity and abuse that we see has a detrimental impact on lots of people who would be better off without it – the fact people can remain anonymous online is certainly a curse as it removes any accountability for their actions. Ultimately, it comes down to the same principles as in real life which is that if we’re all kinder to each other then the world will be a better place.

What advice would you give to anybody being bullied or targeted with abuse right now?

You are not alone – don’t be afraid to reach out for help. It will get better. I know the team at Cybersmile have plenty of resources to help you too so please reach out for support.

In 10 words or less, why should people be kinder to each other?

Kindness is a gift everyone can afford to give.

We would like to say a HUGE thank you to Jordan for this interview and his ongoing support for our work! You can learn more about our ‘People Not Profiles’ campaign with Jordan here or for more information about Cybersmile and the work we do, please explore the recommendations below:

What are your thoughts on cyberbullying and online abuse? Let us know by contacting us or tweet us @CybersmileHQ.