Thierry Henry says he will only return to social media “when it is safe” after deleting his accounts amid an ongoing online storm of racial abuse directed at footballers.
The former Arsenal and Barcelona striker disabled his Twitter and Instagram profiles on Saturday, as one of the highest-profile victims of an increasingly toxic virtual sphere.
The 43-year-old announced his decision to shut down his online presence on Friday and has repeated calls for increased accountability.
What has Henry said?
“Recently it happened to me off social media, it happened on social media,” the former France forward told Good Morning Britain in reference to the abuse directed towards him in recent weeks. “But recently it’s been coming quite a lot, players getting abused. I just think that [social media] is not a safe place at the minute.
“People are getting racially abused but, when you see the statement, I talk also about bullying, harassment that can cause mental issues, people commit suicide because of it.
“It’s very difficult to eradicate everything but can it be safer? We all know that it is a great tool but a lot of people are using it as a weapon. Why? Because they can hide behind fake accounts.
“I know that a little portion of the world is using it as a weapon. ‘Can it be safer?’ is all I am asking. I will be back on it, when it’s safe.”
Legend calls for accountability
Henry, who stepped down as manager of Montreal Impact in Major League Soccer last month, feels that tech giants behind social media platforms are not doing enough to combat the spread of racism and hate speech on their sites.
“Basically, I had enough of what I heard as an answer all the time,” he added. “Social media always say that ‘we are investigating it, we are trying to do stuff to eradicate it’ but enough is enough because I found out that if you want to upload a video on social media, they will block it, you can’t even send it.
“We all know why: because of the copyright, because money is involved, so it is different. Now for that they can create algorithms to make sure that you don’t do it. They will stop you there, they will act strongly there.
“I know people will tell me ‘freedom of speech’ and ‘a word can be used in different ways’, but listen, you cannot go in a cinema and shout whatever you want, you can’t shout whatever you want in the street, you can’t shout whatever you want at an airport. You can’t cross the line. All I want is accountability. We need to find out who those people are.”