FIFA and FIFPRO, the international union for professional soccer players, have announced to combat online hate speech directed at athletes during international tournaments with the help of an AI-based service. The algorithm deployed will screen content across different social media platforms that is sent to team accounts, players, coaches, and referees during tournaments. Thereby, hate speech terms are recognized and offensive posts will be rendered invisible for the people to whom the abuse is directed and their followers, hence contributing to reducing the reach of hate speech. In addition, accounts can be tracked and reported to the social media platform or law enforcement. The system will be launched in autumn 2022 before the men’s football world cup in Qatar.
Prior to the announcement, a report jointly published by player associations of professional football and basketball leagues highlighted the alarming scale of the issue, stating that over 50% of players receive some form of discriminatory abuse during a tournament.
While the use of such solutions to protect tournament participants should be welcomed, the need for extending the protection of individuals from hate speech on social media to other users who cannot count on the advocacy of associations remains. First and foremost, this concerns the social media companies themselves who may even commercially benefit from the engagement triggered by divisive content on their platforms.
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