Facebook, which owns Instagram, and Twitter said that racism and other forms of abuse have no place on their platforms. Anti-discrimination organizations like Kick It Out and Show Racism the Red Card are involved in the boycott, as are sport's governing bodies. Kick It Out said in September that there was a 42% increase in reports of discrimination in professional soccer last season, with the number of incidents rising from 313 to 446. Former World Cup winner and Arsenal's record goal-scorer Thierry Henry, who removed himself from social media last month, hailed the boycott as a "start" in the battle against racism and discrimination. "(What) the world of English football is doing at the minute and what's going to happen at the weekend, people ask me, 'Is it enough, the weekend?'" he told CNN this week. "And I'm like, 'it's a start.' You know, you can't be too greedy from not having anything to that. It's a start." Watford Football Club captain Troy Deeney told the BBC on Friday that many athletes receive abusive messages online on a daily basis, while some people experience it hourly.   On Friday morning, Alex Scott, who played for Arsenal and England before moving into broadcasting, urged members of the public to get involved. "Join us and switch off too, as we collectively demand change," she wrote on Twitter. Premier League Chief Executive Richard Masters said in a statement: "Racist behavior of any form is unacceptable and the appalling abuse we are seeing players receive on social media platforms cannot be allowed to continue." He added: "The Premier League and our clubs stand alongside football in staging this boycott to highlight the urgent need for social media companies to do more in eliminating racial hatred. We will not stop challenging social media companies and want to see significant improvements in their policies and processes to tackle online discriminatory abuse on their platforms." Fines of up to 10% of annual global turnover Ahead of the boycott, Manchester United wrote on Twitter: "Since September 2019, there has been a 350% increase in online abuse directed towards our players. We need change." Separately, Everton Football Club said via Twitter: "Enough is enough" and used hashtags "#StopOnlineAbuse" and "NoRoomForRacism." British Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden wrote in British newspapers this week that the social media firms will face "severe sanctions" if they fail to remove racist abuse. "We could see fines of up to ten per cent of annual global turnover," he wrote. "For a company such as Facebook or YouTube, that could be billions." Companies including Adidas, Barclays, Budweiser, Cazoo and betting app Smarkets, are taking part in the boycott, as are broadcasters including BT Sport and talkSPORT. It's not the first time the social media companies have faced a backlash for failing to remove offensive content. Last year, more than 1,000 groups and companies took part in a boycott, hoping to pressure Facebook into taking more stringent steps to stop the spread of hate speech and misinformation on its platform. Participants included the likes of HP, Verizon, Coca-Cola, Diageo and Ben & Jerry's.


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Cracks in the exposed ground at Petaluma’s Shollenberger Park offer a stark reminder of the ongoing Sonoma County drought, which Gov. Gavin Newsom officially signalled two weeks ago. Petaluma residents are being asked to cut back on water usage by 20% ahead of likely mandatory cuts to come. (CRISSY PASCUAL/ARGUS-COURIER STAFF) Petaluma this week launched the first stage of a four-tiered water shortage contingency plan, calling for a voluntary 20% reduction in water use across the city, a measure in line with recommendations from the county’s water agency. The move comes just days after state and county leaders declared emergencies over a second consecutive year of below-average rainfall, and it represents the city’s first step to combat the drought ahead of predicted mandatory restrictions next month. To learn about the city’s water conservation programs for residential and commercial customers, including water-efficient device giveaways, rebate programs, and water-wise house calls, go to cityofpetaluma.org/water-conservation . For more information on the Russian River system and Sonoma Water's water supply conditions, go to sonomawater.org . “What people need to know is it’s worse than it was last time we went through this, if you look at the reservoir levels,” said Public Works and Utilities Director Jason Beatty, referencing the 2013-14 drought. “It’s pretty stark.” The Russian River watershed, which supplies water to more than 600,000 residents in Sonoma and Marin counties, is experiencing a historic drought following two-straight years of meager rainfall. Capacity at the region’s reservoirs are already below 2013-14 drought levels, with Lake Sonoma at 61.4% of capacity and Lake Mendocino holding just 43% of its target water supply as of April 30, according to Sonoma Water. This year’s water crisis has instead drawn comparisons to the devastating 1976-77 drought, which looms large in the memories of many longtime residents and local farmers. Longtime Two Rock dairyman Don DeBernardi remembers 1976, but has worried that this year could be worse. “We’re almost out of water. There’s no ground water here so we depend on the rain,” DeBernardi said in a March interview. “Some of my neighbors are hauling water already. We have two months to go then we will be pretty desperate and will have to start hauling, too.” Without additional rainfall and aggressive water saving, Lake Sonoma and Lake Mendocino water levels could reach historically low levels by October 2021, according to Sonoma Water projections. Petaluma is one of nine cities or water providers grappling with the need to reduce water consumption in the Russian River Watershed, a group that also includes Cotati, Rohnert Park, Santa Rosa, Sonoma, Forestville and Windsor. To meet its initial 20% reduction goal, Petaluma will require the city’s restaurants to serve water only upon request, and residents will be asked to refrain from using potable water to hose off driveways or sidewalks. Residents are also encouraged to utilize landscape irrigation during the coolest hours of the day, from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m., and to fix leaks to eliminate water waste. “We know this is hard and we know this is just the beginning,” Mayor Teresa Barrett said at Monday’s council meeting. “But this is where we have to be, and I think Petaluma will be up to it.” Petaluma last asked residents to reduce water use in 2015, said Chelsea Thompson, environmental services analyst with the city. Those recommendations lasted a year, and residents were able to cut back their water usage by 21%, surpassing a 16% target set by the state. This year’s reduction goal is based on residents’ average use from 2018-20, according to city documents.


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