Steve Bruce has called for social media companies to better police “absolutely vile and obscene” online abuse from “idiots and morons”, having revealed he has been targeted himself.
Newcastle United head coach Bruce does not use social media but learned this week of death threats through his son Alex.
Bruce, a Premier League-winning captain with Manchester United, was discussing the topic after top-flight referee Mike Dean reportedly asked not to officiate a match this week due to threats directed his way.
Dean sent off West Ham’s Tomas Soucek in the final seconds of their draw with Fulham last week, a decision that was later overturned.
His dismissal of Jan Bednarek for Southampton earlier in the week, in a 9-0 defeat at Manchester United, was also rescinded on appeal.
Football authorities are attempting to clamp down on online abuse amid a series of incidents – many of them including racist comments. Facebook, which also owns Instagram, has announced new penalties relating to the matter.
Bruce, who came under scrutiny as Newcastle endured an 11-match winless run in all competitions across December and January, condemned the threats on Thursday.
“Social media is a really, really powerful weapon for everybody concerned,” Bruce said. “For me, these big companies have got to police it better.
“The abuse that I’ve had – death threats, all this sorts of stuff – and then you see a referee wanting to come away from it because he’s made a mistake, people threatening him with his life and all the rest of it, it’s just absolutely obscene and totally ridiculous.
“They need to clamp down on it and they need to police it better, and we need to stop it, basically. If there are vulnerable people out there, it’s absolutely – in my opinion – vile, some of it.”
Asked to confirm he had been the subject of similar abuse, Bruce told reporters: “I don’t go on it [social media], but of course people close to me do, who are sensitive towards their father, of course. Yes, we’ve had that to deal with.”
The Newcastle boss added: “When I see some of the nature of it, it is totally and utterly vile. Some of the stuff that I’ve had is absolutely obscene. It fuels a hatred. I don’t know.
“When I see an experienced referee – like him, loathe him, whatever you want with Mike Dean – nobody deserves that because he gets a decision wrong.
“Let’s be fair, as well, it was in the last 30 seconds of the game, nothing really hinged on it, yet he feels he has the need to step down this weekend.
“For everybody, these big companies have got to police it better and find out these idiots and morons who write such vile abuse and make them be punished.
“In conversations I’ve had with the family over the last few days – we were talking about Mike Dean and the situation he feels – it was brought to my attention that I’ve had it, too.
“Horrible stuff, which I couldn’t really get my breath with: they hope that I die of COVID and all this. It’s absolutely vile and obscene.
“It has to be stopped. These big companies have to start policing it better than they’ve been doing, that’s for sure.”
Bruce was speaking at a news conference ahead of Newcastle’s trip to Chelsea, where he confirmed 10-goal striker Callum Wilson is facing up to eight weeks out with a hamstring tear.
A knee injury for Fabian Schar had already been announced, with a similar lay-off anticipated for both the Switzerland defender and Javier Manquillo, who suffered an ankle issue.
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