BT has launched Hope United, a squad of athletes from across the four Home Nations who have come together to unite the nation in tackling online hate.
Comprised of male and female players from England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, drawn together by their own experiences of online hate, Hope United will drive more support for change and educate the nation on how to protect themselves and be good digital citizens.
As a female football player and amputee, Rebecca Sellar, from Scotland, has experienced negativity directed towards her throughout her football career.
“I’ve had my own challenges from social media, and I knew that Hope United was something I wanted to share my voice and experiences,” explains Rebecca. “Most importantly it is about making people think about what they share online.”
Hope United players include Marcus Rashford, Gareth Bale, Lucy Bronze, Andy Robertson, Jordan Henderson, Ethan Ampadu, alongside Rebecca in squad of 20. Managed by Rio Ferdinand and Karen Carney, everyone involved in Hope United has first-hand experience of online hate crime and its lasting impact.
Rebecca emphasises: “The comments section is a place where you don’t get the chance to explain yourself or talk back. Generally, the people posting negative comments have no accountability and then there is no thought on the impact their words can have.
Tackling online hate ahead of the UEFA European Championships, members of the squad will also appear in BT Tech Tips content. The free resource is set to provide people with digital skills to tackle hate online.
Research has shown that one in 10 people have received online abuse in the past year, so the skills are definitely sought after.
“We’re talking about the experiences and effects of online abuse, but we need to learn how to fix the situation we are in,” Rebecca continues.
“The BT Tech Tips is a big part of this. Online abuse is going in such a toxic direction and it needs to change. People need to take responsibility of their actions. You can’t have this campaign without the training, you need to have one with the other.”
During the first two weeks of the campaign, areas being covered with BT Tech Tips will include recognising hate crime, how to be our best selves online, supporting children online and being a good team player online.
“My work, both on and off the pitch, has taught me that there is no hiding place from social media abuse,” emphasises Rio Ferdinand.
“Passions run high during big football tournaments and having seen the devastating effect that can result from online hate first-hand, it is more important than ever that sport unites to combat it.”
Rebecca agrees: “This is an opportunity for us all to come together and share our experiences of online abuse. Then we can show people how wide spread the issue is and changes people’s minds on what they’re positing.
“You can only use your voice if you can. People are sometimes intimidated by disability or they’ve never met someone with a disability and they don’t know how to talk to us. Or, at times, it is even just not recognising the human side of disabled people.
BT’s Hope United will rally the UK to tackle online abuse as part BT’s commitment to digitally upskill the nation. To find out more about how you can play your part, watch BT’s Tech Tips at bt.com/hopeunited. Together we can beat online hate.