Former England football captain Rio Ferdinand will share with MPs and peers his experiences of racism and abuse online as the government attempts to deal with hate on social media.
The ex-Manchester United player, who is now a leading TV pundit, will give evidence to parliament on Thursday to discuss online racism against footballers and how proposed new laws can tackle the issue.
Ferdinand’s appearance will come nearly two months after leading England stars were racially abused on social media following the national side’s loss on penalties to Italy in the Euro 2020 final at Wembley.
At the time, Ferdinand called on social media companies to “come together” to “protect people on your platforms”.
He described how immediately after the Euro 2020 final “social media platforms became the toxic and racist safe place for the ignorant and cowardly rats to start spouting their disgusting feelings”.
Ferdinand said those “disgusting people” who sent hateful messages to Three Lions players could “continually abuse our England players knowing that they are safe to be able to stay anonymous”.
The 42-year-old, who was a vocal critic of footballing authorities’ efforts to eradicate racism within the game during his career, will speak this week to a joint House of Commons and House of Lords committee.
The group of MPs and peers, chaired by Conservative MP Damian Collins, will report their findings to the government later this year on ministers’ Online Safety Bill.
The proposed legislation is designed to establish a new regulatory framework to tackle harmful content online.
The committee will also hear on Thursday from Imran Ahmed, chief executive of the Centre for Countering Digital Hate think-tank, as well as Sanjay Bhandari, the chair of the Kick It Out campaign, Edleen John from the Football Association, Stonewall chief executive Nancy Kelley, and Danny Stone, the director of the Antisemitism Policy Trust.
In their election manifesto, the Conservatives promised to make the UK “the safest place in the world to be online”.
The Online Safety Bill aims to protect children online and tackle some of the worst abuses on social media, including racist hate crimes, but also to strengthen people’s rights to freedom of speech.
As well as hearing from prominent figures, think tanks, campaigners and charities, the joint committee of MPs and peers is also asking the public for their views.