Rio Ferdinand opened up to MPs about his experience with online racial abuse and explained to the Draft Online Safety Bill joint committee how it has affected his family.

Ferdinand said that he was forced to explain to his children what the monkey emoji means and how it can be extremely racist after they found the emojis posted by online trolls under his posts.

Good Morning Britain addressed the monkey emoji earlier this year, with Piers Morgan saying:

“Let me help you Twitter, if someone sends a monkey emoji to a black football player with a load of abuse, that is racism.”

Rio Ferdinand speaks out against online racial abuse

On September 9th Rio Ferdinand shared his experiences with online racial abuse with MPs, urging the Draft Online Safety Bill joint committee in Parliament to take action against social media companies which allow abuse on their platforms.

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The footballer explained how emojis are used in place of racial slurs, and stated that his children found monkey emojis commented under his posts on social media.

Ferdinand said:

“You can go to a game and if you threw a banana on a pitch there would be repercussions. But online, you can post a banana to a black player or a black person with racist connotations behind it and be fine.”

He continued on to explain: “A lot of us have children and I have to sit there and have breakfast with my kids and explain to them what the monkey emoji means in that context, what a banana means.”

What does the monkey emoji mean?

While the monkey emoji itself is just that, an emoji, the way it is used and the context in which it is used plays a vital part in its meaning.

Following England’s loss in the Euro’s final, football players Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka found their social media accounts inundated with monkey emojis and racial abuse.

Gal-dem explains that “grotesque comparisons between black people and monkeys, chimpanzees and other apes have a history that is centuries old.”

The Professional Footballers’ Association and data science company Signify found in a 2020 study of tweets sent to some players that there were more than 3,000 explicitly abusive messages.

29% of the racially abusive posts came in the form of emojis. The study found that Twitter’s algorithms “were not effectively intercepting racially abusive posts that were sent using emojis,” which “highlights a glaring oversight.”

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