In the absence of adequate moderation, Twitter brands such as @Arsenal need to demonstrate better judgement.
Football Twitter can be one of the most toxic corners of the internet. The lads with headsets on FIFA going on about “jewing it in” have aged a few years and are going on about “bias journo’s” and abusing anyone who dares to criticise their clubs.
Before the North London derby, there was a typical pre-derby puff piece on The Daily Mail with writers giving their combined best XIs. One journalist, Adam Crafton, was a little provocative by naming a full Spurs team.
After a resounding 2–0 victory for Arsenal on Saturday afternoon, the writer inevitably had stick coming his way. It comes with the territory when making predictions, especially with bold calls.
Arsenal responded with the above. Pretty funny, pretty harmless, entirely civil. In and of itself there’s no problem with it — and in a properly moderated community that would be the case.
The problem arises with Twitter itself and the reach of @Arsenal’s 12 million Twitter followers. Some of whom aren’t civil, funny or harmless.
These are a few examples of how people have seen fit to respond (t/w: anti-semitism, homophobia) :
Crafton brought attention to the abuse. His response was calm and reasonable given a day’s abuse:
Some responses were more level-headed than others — Crafton himself soberly advising “clubs not repeat this”, given the waves of abuse. Henry Winter characterised it as a “misjudgement”.
Such responses are proportionate. Those who work in social media must be aware of Twitter’s abuse problem, and should display more responsibility with a large following. The .GIF didn’t invite any abuse to the journalist, but it displays an ignorance not to foresee the abuse he would face.
Inversely, those who work in social media are under pressure to deliver content that delivers big numbers and helps to create something that a worldwide following can identify with, and respond to. Mistakes like these will happen. It’s not a mistake that should cost anyone their jobs, nor bear intense enquiry. But when such a lapse of judgement occurs, it’s natural that the consequences are illuminated. Learn from it, others will hopefully learn the same lesson, we move on. Arsenal responded adequately:
This could and should have been the end of it. A cautionary tale for social media managers that such actions aren’t wise. Take more care when you’ve got a large following and are in a position of power.
Others felt more strongly on the matter — calling it “crass, reckless, arrogant and utterly stupid”.
The fallout since has been a quagmire of false equivalences, whatabouttery and idiocy.
Many have felt the criticisms are a targeted attack on the proud name of Arsenal Football Club. This is where things get messy because it invokes the tribalism and defensive reflex that can make Football Twitter such a jarring, vexatious place.
“It’s a targeted attack on the club”, “they only care because it’s us”, “it’s part of a wider agenda against us”. The paranoid cousin of the “this is a special club. we need someone who just gets what makes us such a unique club” when calling for a new manager. Fans of every single club in the world air these views. They’re always deluded.
The fact is this is barely about Arsenal. It was their mistake, but it could have come from any number of clubs and the response would have been the same. Different neanderthals with different footballer avaters and handles suffixed with “-ology” would have responded. Such accounts are depressingly ubiquitous no matter the club.
That fans are so defensive of criticism an error in judgement from a social media manager says something about the global spread of the game. Many of these users won’t have set foot in North London. Their experience of rival clubs fans isn’t from growing up with neighbours or classmates, but awful banter accounts and back-and-forths on social media. In the digital age, to many @Arsenal is more “Arsenal” than any pre-match ritual or sense of family belonging. In principle there’s nothing wrong with that — times change. But in practice new problems arise.
The responses in support for Arsenal’s twitter have been wide-ranging and baffling.
Some have reduced the episode down to “They just posted a gif”, stripping any context. As if it exists in a vacuum free of consequence.
Some have compared it to banter with Bayern Munich, as if targetting another sporting institution and an individual are any way comparable.
Some have layed the blame solely on the abusive users, which is the closest anyone gets to a good point. It’s true — (Above) @subeshan_k , @pezderby , “Steve Gallagher” , @cmularr and all the others are scumbags. They should be the focus of the scorn. The person running @Arsenal made a lapse of judgement. But as long as a platform exists that gives them a voice, we should be critical of anything that enables or encourages those scumbags.
Plenty have been quick to comment on Crafton’s employment for the Daily Mail. An undoubtedly questionable publication. But there is no logic in weaponising that wokeness to — at best — apologise for anti-semites and homophobes, and — at worst — pile that abuse on. Especially as there is no evidence of that particular journalist sharing the Mail’s rhetoric.
Some suggest the writer is asking for it by writing an inflammatory football opinion. First of all, no football opinion warrants abuse. Second of all, it’s not the wildest shout in the world, given recent performances — the bloke’s hardly done a combined West Ham-Arsenal XI with Mark Noble in it.
Others have flat out refused to believe the abuse suffered by the writer. They clearly can’t work the search function.
Twitter thought it a reasonable course of action to verify white supremacists. It doesn’t do nearly enough to combathe swaithes of abuse and harrassment faced by anyone with the audacity of not being a straight white male. At this point, we’ve firmly established that Twitter is a steaming pile of garbage.
But people use it. They will continue to use it. So as long as Twitter ignores the urgent calls for action and we continue to use it, responsibility unfortunately lies with its userbase. We need to make this steaming pile of garbage habitable, and that means expecting more responsibility from brands.