British F1 drivers join social media boycott against online abuse

Mercedes’ British driver Lewis Hamilton attends the official press conference of the Portuguese Formula One Grand Prix at the Algarve International Circuit in Portimao April 29, 2021. — AFP pic
Mercedes’ British driver Lewis Hamilton attends the official press conference of the Portuguese Formula One Grand Prix at the Algarve International Circuit in Portimao April 29, 2021. — AFP pic

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LONDON, April 30 — Britain’s three current Formula One drivers, led by seven times world champion Lewis Hamilton, joined leading sports bodies today in a growing boycott of social media to protest online abuse.

The soccer-led campaign has gathered momentum, spreading from clubs and leagues to national and international bodies in tennis, cricket, rugby and cycling.

European soccer body Uefa has said it will stay silent across its platforms over the weekend, starting at 1500 BST (1600 CEST) today.

“To stand in solidarity with the football community, I will be going dark on my social media channels this weekend,” said Hamilton, Formula One’s only Black driver, on Instagram where he has 22 million followers.

“There is no place in our society for any kind of abuse, online or not, and for too long it’s been easy for a small few to post hate from behind their screens.

“While a boycott might not solve this issue overnight, we have to call for change when needed, even when it seems like an almost impossible task,” added the Mercedes driver, who is racing in Portugal this weekend.

McLaren’s Lando Norris, who has suffered abuse from online trolls and has a million followers on Twitter, said he was also supporting the boycott.

“Everyone struggles with abuse on here at some point and social media companies need to do more to tackle it,” said the 21-year-old. “Hiding behind a keyboard is not okay. Enough is enough.”

McLaren said the team was not planning to do a blackout, however.

“We think it’s very important for us over the course of a race weekend to have this positive engagement with our fans,” team principal Andreas Seidl told reporters on a video call from Portimao.

Williams’ George Russell, 23, said it was time to make a change.

 “There is far too much online abuse, hatred, negativity, racism that is just undeserved,” he said. “I thought it’s our duty to raise as much awareness as possible, not just in sport.” — Reuters

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