Former England defender Joleon Lescott believes the campaign to remove hateful messages on social media is part of a wider problem in society, as he insisted a broader view needs to be taken of racism and all forms of abuse.
England stars Bukayo Saka, Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford were subjected to racist abuse after they missed penalties in England's Euro 2020 final defeat against Italy in July, with a mural celebrating Rashford in his hometown of Wythenshawe also vandalised after the match at Wembley.
Yet Premier League title winner Lescott has told Female First that the campaign to halt abuse on social media is camouflaging a bigger issue.
"Accountability on social media platforms is the issue here and it seems to be a hard one of social media companies to deal with, but this is a much bigger issue for me," former Manchester City star Lescott told us at a BT Sport event.
"If we got rid of racism on social media platforms, we would still have an issue to deal with and not just with racism, but with hate in different areas of our society.
"What we saw with the Marcus Rashford mural had nothing to do with social media. Someone left their house, decided to destroy that mural and they didn't need social media to encourage them to do that.
"Social media makes it easier for people to spread hate, there is no doubt about that, but we need to change our thoughts and our mindsets away from thinking that is the only problem. It isn't only their fault.
"The bigger problem is the attitudes in our society and we can't be selective and say it is all about social media and the need to eradicate abuse on Twitter."
The shocking scenes as ticketless England fans broke into Wembley Stadium at the Euro 2020 final and the vandalism and attacks that occurred outside the stadium marred a glorious summer of football and Lescott suggests the images served as a reminder that a change of attitude is required for many sections of society.
"If we analyse some of the behaviour of the fans during the Euros, it highlighted some of the issues we are dealing with," he continued.
"The idea that the manager of the England international team had to ask the fans not to boo the national anthems before massive matches for our country was incredible.
"Then we see thousands of fans breaking into Wembley and fighting on the day of the Euro 2020 finals and we don't see that in other countries when the national team plays.
"So it's not just social media that we need to clean up in this country. To do that is to be oblivious to other big issues in our society.
"We have bigger issues than people who want to believe and when these issues are highlighted, we always say it's not as bad as it is in other parts of Europe or the world, but that should not be our attitude. We need to get our own house in order first."
Enforcing registration of all accounts on social media platforms has been viewed as a route to inject accountability into the exchanges on Twitter and Instagram, but Lescott believes that could be problematic for some.
"There are a lot of younger people now who want to be anonymous online," he added.
"Whether it is a mental health issue or their sexuality, they don't want everyone to know who they are when they are on social media and for a conversation to start around their personal issues.
"On the other hand, the animosity of people on social media does allow some to spread their hate.
"As a society and a country, as well as a football industry, we are hiding behind social media and blaming it for everything that is wrong and that is not the case."
New Hope. Be part of it all. BT Sport www.bt.com/sport.
Words by Kevin Palmer for Female First, who you can follow on Twitter, @RealKevinPalmer.
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