Raheem Sterling is leading fresh calls to social media companies to step up and take real action after a ground breaking study revealed the alarming scale of online racism and abuse aimed at footballers.
Analysis of thousands of messages sent publically on Twitter to 44 current and ex-players during the six-week Project Restart period last season has revealed that 56 per cent of the abuse was racist and 43 per cent (13 out of 30) of the Premier League players were subjected to racist abuse.
A huge 50 per cent of the 3000-plus abusive messages recorded during the in-depth pilot study were sent to just three players - Sterling, Crystal Palace's Wilfried Zaha and Wycombe striker Adebayo Akinfenwa.
Raheem Sterling is leading fresh calls for action to be taken against online abuse and racism
A study revealed Wilfried Zaha was one of three players to get 50 per cent of the 3000-plus abusive messages
Adebayo Akinfenwa was also heavily targeted by messages sent to 44 current and former players during the six-week Project Restart period last season
Signify analysed 825,515 tweets directed at the 44 selected players during the six weeks of Project Restart
They identified over 3,000 explicitly abusive messages. 56% of all the discriminatory abuse identified during the study was racist.
43% of Premier League players in this study experienced targeted and explicitly racist abuse on public Twitter
50% of the total online abuse recorded in this study was received by three focus players, Sterling, Zaha and Akinfenwa, who spoke up on Black Lives Matter
29% of racially abusive posts came in emoji form. These posts have not been deleted or accounts banned. This highlights a blindspot for platforms.
Depressingly, the vitriol and sickening posts significantly increased AFTER the trio called out racism, highlighting the repercussions players face when they attempt to take a stand.
And 29 per cent of the racist abuse came in the form of emojis and the length of time which some remained visible, due to their context not being automatically detected by any measures Twitter have in place to combat offensive messages, highlighted 'a weak point in Twitter's efforts to deal with racism.' The issue was labelled a 'blindspot' for the platform.
The PFA Charity's study was backed by anti-discrimination organisation Kick It Out and carried out by data science company Signify.
Sterling was targeted twice following Manchester City's win over his old club Liverpool
Zaha posted a string of messages he had been sent directly on social media ahead of Crystal Palace's trip to Aston Villa in July
Akinfenwa posted about allegations he was repeatedly called 'a fat water buffalo' by a Fleetwood official last season
It contains a string of recommendations for social media companies, including that they start to recognise emojis as a