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Instagram has announced new measures to tackle online abuse in the wake of the latest spate of sickening racist attacks on footballers.

Manchester United players Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Axel Tuanzebe and Reece James are among those to have been subjected to racism on social media in the last fortnight alone.

A man was arrested during that period after Romaine Sawyers was sent what West Brom called an “abhorrent message”, while Chelsea full-back Reece James – brother of Lauren – was sent vile abuse via an Instagram direct message.

Instagram does not use technology to proactively detect content within private messages but it has announced new measures, including removing abusive accounts, in a bid to reduce the abuse people get in direct messages.

Facebook content policy manager Fadzai Madzingira told the PA news agency: “I am horrified that they have to deal with that sort of abuse and as a company we take it very seriously.

“We’ve always had rules around people who abuse our community standards in Instagram direct messaging, specifically.

“Currently we will set a specific ban or what we call a block for a set amount of time when someone violates those rules and we extend that time should they continue to do so.

“What we’re announcing today is that we’re taking tougher measures on people who violate those rules in Instagram direct messaging, so instead of just extending the time, we’ll be removing the accounts altogether.

“That allows us to ensure that we have a lower tolerance for that sort of abuse in direct messaging and we’ll be closing those accounts more quickly in Instagram direct messaging than anywhere else on the platform.”

Stopping individuals from seeing abusive content in direct messages is challenging, given they are private conversations, but business and creator accounts have the option to turn off messages from people they do not know.

Instagram intends to eventually roll that function out to all personal accounts, while a new feature is in the works recognising “that seeing abusive DMs in the first place takes a toll”.

But vile abuse has not been restricted to private messages, with a number of players seeing monkey emojis and racist terms left in the comment section of recent posts.

A number of those accounts appear to be focused on sending abuse – something Madzingira says Instagram continues to work on, while she pointed to comment filters that can block certain words, phrases and emojis from appearing.