Lionel Messi Instagram Post on Soccer's Anti-Racism Social Boycott Liked Over 6M Times

Lionel Messi has backed a social media boycott and urged platforms to act against online abuse and racism directed at soccer stars, in a post liked more than 6 million times.

The Barcelona player asked his more than 200 million followers to support the four-day blackout after soccer players in the U.K. accused the major platforms of doing too little to stop waves of abuse.

In an Instagram post liked more than 6.47 million times, Messi threw his weight behind the British campaign to stop online abuse.

In a statement translated from Spanish via Google, the Argentina star said: "I see that I have just reached the 200 million people who follow me on this network, however, because of what is happening today, I am not going to take it as a reason for celebration.

"Of course I appreciate all the love and support that I always receive from you, but I think the time has come to give importance to all people behind each profile that we realize that behind each account there is a person of flesh and blood, who laughs, cries, enjoys and suffers, human beings with feelings."

He continued: "Nobody deserves to be ill-treated or insulted. We see and experience increasingly worse abuse on social media and nobody is doing anything to prevent it. We should condemn this hostility in the strongest possible terms and demand that the social media networks take urgent measures against this behavior."

Messi then praised English soccer teams and players for starting the campaign. He added: "Big hug to all and congratulations to all football people in the United Kingdom for their idea of putting together the campaign against abuse and discrimination in networks."

The Barcelona star is among a growing number of voices who are urging Facebook and other social media platforms to act.

A spokesperson for England's Premier League acknowledged some action had been taken to limit racist abuse and harassment but insisted more needed to be done "in an effort to stem the relentless flow of discriminatory messages and ensure that there are real-life consequences for purveyors of online abuse across all platforms."

The EPL acknowledged that the boycott would not eradicate online abuse, but said it would "demonstrate that the game is willing to take voluntary and proactive steps."

"Finally, while football takes a stand, we urge the U.K. government to ensure its Online Safety Bill will bring strong legislation to make social media companies more accountable for what happens on their platforms, as discussed at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport online abuse roundtable earlier this week."

The campaign has received the backing of other U.K.-based sport with the nation's cricket, Rugby and Formula1 stars all offering their support to abused players.

A review by EPL club Manchester United found that between September 2019 and February 2021 abuse directed towards the team's players had more than tripled.

It found of the 3,300 posts targeting players 86 percent were racist while 8 percent were homophobic or transphobic.

A club statement added: "The vast majority of racist posts contained either the N-word (and variants on the selling) or emojis used with racist intent."

The social media blackout coincided with the U.K. Bank Holiday weekend and will end at 12 a.m. on Tuesday.

Newsweek has contacted Facebook, which owns Instagram, and Twitter for comment.

Lionel Messi, Barcelona
Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona prior to the UEFA Champions League group F against Slavia Praha at Eden Stadium on October 23 in Prague, Czech Republic. TF-Images/Getty