Patrice Evra has been subject to a swath of racist abuse on Twitter in the wake of Luis Suárez receiving an eight-match ban for insulting language that included a reference to Evra’s skin colour.
The level and intensity of the abuse has prompted Stan Collymore, the TalkSport presenter and former Liverpool and Nottingham Forest striker, to highlight it on his own Twitter page to emphasise that racism remains a big issue in football.
“Have a look at my favourites. Tell me Twitter shouldn’t do something,” Collymore tweeted on Friday, followed shortly afterwards with: “Just have one look at my favourites and tell me there isn’t at least something to address. Nobody’s playing any cards, it’s there to read.”
Some of the tweets he has selected confirm the degree of offence being directed towards Evra on the social media site, including highly racist and foul language.
Collymore subsequently received abuse on the site but tweeted that the support he was receiving far outweighed negative responses, writing: “The lovely comments outstrip the bad 100/1.”
A spokeswoman for the Association of Chief Police Officers said: “If it’s racist abuse, it falls as a type of hate crime. If anyone is being serially harassed, or even stalked on a social networking site or on Twitter they should report that to their local police and they can investigate.
“If he feels a victim of being abused or attacked, he would go to his local police station and they would pass it on to, potentially, an e-crime unit to look into.”
West Midlands police were swift to act on Friday. When one particularly vile missive was highlighted by Collymore, they tweeted at its author: “Your comments constitute an offence under the Public Order Act. We have received a complaint advised them how to report it.”
A spokeswoman for Twitter said the company would deal with any such abuse. “This is an important issue that we take very seriously. If users are breaking any of the Twitter rules, we will take the appropriate action,” she said. In such cases the likely action would be permanent suspension of the user’s account.
However, Twitter would not reveal how many accounts had been suspended for abuse and said it was up to users to contact the police if they believed laws were being broken.
It is very difficult to gauge the volume of cyber offences being reported. They are recorded in police statistics as “hate crime” rather than internet or online offences.
The Crown Prosecution Service also records crime by type rather than medium but carried out 9,993 successful prosecutions for racist and religious crime in England and Wales in 2009-10.
The category is by far the largest covered by hate crime legislation, accounting for just under 88% of successful prosecutions in that year.