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Fifa and FifPro rollout social media moderation tool to combat online abuse

New report finds 50% of players were subject to abuse during Euro 2020 and this year's Afcon.

21 June 2022 Rory Jones

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Fifa and FifPro, the global soccer player’s body, are rolling out a social media moderation tool to combat online abuse during international tournaments, ahead of the Qatar 2022 World Cup.

A recently published independent report commissioned by soccer’s global governing body used artificial intelligence (AI) to track more than 400,000 social media posts during the latter stages of the Euro 2020 and African Cup of Nations (Afcon) 2021 tournaments.

The study found that 50 per cent of players were subject to some form of discrimination online, with data revealing significant volumes of homophobic and racist abuse. Despite the likes of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram claiming they are cracking down on such behaviour, many of the offending posts were found to still be viewable via the accounts that published them.

To combat this, Fifa and FifPro’s are launching a moderation service that will track hate speech on social media directed at players during tournaments and prevent those posts from being seen by the intended recipient or their followers, significantly reducing the reach of such posts.

With the study revealing that 90 per cent of accounts posting abusive comments have a high probability of identification, the social media tracking tool will also help in reporting those users to platform moderators. Offensive posts will remain visible to Fifa and FifPro, who can alert social media platforms and law enforcement authorities if it is felt that further action needs to be taken.

The partnership will also see Fifa and FifPro offer educational support for managing social media accounts, as well as mental health advice for all players participating in upcoming tournaments.

“Our duty is to protect football, and that starts with the players who bring so much joy and happiness to all of us by their exploits on the field of play,” said Gianni Infantino, Fifa president.

“Unfortunately, there is a trend developing where a percentage of posts on social media channels directed towards players, coaches, match officials and the teams themselves is not acceptable, and this form of discrimination – like any form of discrimination – has no place in football.”

He added: “With the Fifa World Cup Qatar 2022 and Fifa World Cup Australia and New Zealand 2023 on the horizon, Fifa and FIFPro recognise it is important to make a stand and to include what is monitored on social media with what is already being monitored in the stadiums.

“We want our actions to speak louder than our words and that is why we are taking concrete measures to tackle the problem directly.”

Elsewhere, Fifa’s sales team are still securing deals for this year’s World Cup, with Frito-Lay having the latest to become a regional supporter for the tournament in North and Central America. The snack-food giant will gain rights to use official Qatar 2022 branding on products across 23 markets, including the US, Canada and Mexico.

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