FIFA, jointly with the global players’ association FIFPRO, has released a report on the activities of the Social Media Protection Service (SMPS) at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™, showing how this innovative approach helped reduce the exposure of players, teams and official to online abuse and hate speech. The report includes significant statistics on the number of comments analysed, the scale of the protection offered and the various types of abuse which were hidden.
5.1 million posts and comments were analysed for abusive content, in 35 different languages, protecting 697 players and coaches actively using 2,111 accounts across Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, X and YouTube. 239 active accounts held by 29 match officials and the 32 participating teams were also covered by this service.
Through that action, it was identified that:
1 in 5 players (152) at the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™ received targeted discriminatory, abusive or threatening messaging
Homophobic, sexual and sexist abuse accounted for almost 50% of detected verified abusive messages*
Players at the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™ were 29% more likely to be targeted with online abuse compared with players at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™
The tournament in Australia and New Zealand was the seventh FIFA event where the SMPS has been used since it was launched at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ in response to a problem that has become a sad reality in modern football. It has since been used at the FIFA U-17 World Cup Indonesia 2023™. The service uses artificial intelligence (AI) to protect participants from online abuse, keeping their social feeds free from hate and allowing them to concentrate on their performance. It also stops their followers from being exposed to hate speech.
“There can be no place on social media for those who abuse or threaten anyone, be that in FIFA tournaments or elsewhere,” said FIFA President Gianni Infantino. “Through the Social Media Protection Service – which was introduced one year ago, with the support of FIFPRO – FIFA has helped reduce the exposure of players, teams, and officials to online abuse and hate speech by reporting and hiding more than 400,000 comments. Discrimination has no place in football and no place in society. Together, we say: NO DISCRIMINATION!”
As part of the monitoring and moderation process, FIFA also shared relevant information with FIFA Member Associations and law-enforcement agencies to ensure there is no hiding place in the real world for those who are abusive in the virtual one.
FIFPRO President David Aganzo added: “The abuse that persists online impacts football players all over the world and it cannot be ignored. This toxic online environment is a risky place to be in for players and it affects their mental health and wellbeing.
“Football has a responsibility to protect the players around their workspace. Therefore, as FIFPRO and FIFA, we continued our collaboration to provide preventative measures at the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand. However, we cannot do this alone. Football needs all stakeholders to play their part if we want to create a safer and better environment for everyone.”
FIFA’s No Discrimination campaign is run in partnership with the United Nations Human Rights (OHCHR). UN Human Rights (OHCHR) Chief External Outreach and Partnerships, Astrid van Genderen Stort, said: “We welcome FIFA’s zero-tolerance approach to discrimination, with the Social Media Protection Service being an important tool to help address online abuse against players and officials. We invite all sports entities to engage in the battle against all forms of online abuse, and look forward to our continued collaboration with FIFA.”
*Data derived from more than 20 million messages mentioning player handles (usernames) – 20 million at FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ and 5.1 million at FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™ making this the largest known comparative study of its kind, analysing men’s and women’s football. – www.fifa.com