Social media company Instagram has vowed to take "tougher action" against users of their platform who send abusive messages.
The move comes following a surge of racist abuse directed at footballers including Manchester United players Axel Tuanzebe, Marcus Rashford and Lauren James, James' brother Reece James and his Chelsea team-mate Antonio Rudiger.
Former Arsenal striker Ian Wright received racially abusive messages on Instagram from a man in Kerry, and in a statement released on Tuesday, the company said it will start to close accounts found to have sent abusive messages.
"Today, we're announcing that we'll take tougher action when we become aware of people breaking our rules in DMs," reads the statement.
"Currently, when someone sends DMs that break our rules, we prohibit that person from sending any more messages for a set period of time. Now, if someone continues to send violating messages, we'll disable their account.
"We'll also disable new accounts created to get around our messaging restrictions, and will continue to disable accounts we find that are created purely to send abusive messages."
Last Saturday, Everton, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United released a joint statement condemning the abuse received by players in recent weeks.
It was backed by Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham, and Mayor of Liverpool City Region Steve Rotheram, plus Greater Manchester Police and Merseyside Police
"We condemn the racist abuse that too many players, officials and supporters continue to encounter, most recently on social media platforms," read the statement.
"We stand shoulder to shoulder in saying there is no room for racism, hate or any form of discrimination in our beautiful game. It should not happen and it must stop."
Humanity and social media at its worst. Yes I’m a black man and I live every day proud that I am. No one, or no one comment, is going to make me feel any different. So sorry if you were looking for a strong reaction, you’re just simply not going to get it here 👊🏾
— Marcus Rashford MBE (@MarcusRashford) January 30, 2021
In their statement, Instagram outlined what type of content they will not accept.
They also revealed the huge scale of offensive content they are dealing with.
"Our rules against hate speech don't tolerate attacks on people based on their protected characteristics, including race or religion.
"We strengthened these rules last year, banning more implicit forms of hate speech, like content depicting Blackface and common antisemitic tropes.
"We take action whenever we become aware of hate speech, and we're continuously improving our detection tools so we can find it faster.
"Between July and September of last year, we took action on 6.5m pieces of hate speech on Instagram, including in DMs, 95 percent of which we found before anyone reported it."
On Monday, Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder revealed that people at his club have been targeted by online abusers and that the club has been working with police on the matter.
This is something that Instagram says in their statement that they will also be doing.
"We're also committed to cooperation with UK law enforcement authorities on hate speech and will respond to valid legal requests for information in these cases.
"As we do with all requests from law enforcement, we'll push back if they're too broad, inconsistent with human rights, or not legally valid."