Ahead of the Qatar 2022 World Cup, which will take place from November 21 to December 18, FIFA is looking to combat online hate speech aimed at players using artificial intelligence (AI) technology.
FIFA is partnering with The Fédération Internationale des Associations de Footballeurs Professionnels (FIFPRO) to launch a moderation service that will recognize hate speech directed at players on social media during tournaments. The aim is to prevent such hate posts from being seen by the intended recipient or their followers and generally reduce their reach and visibility.
FIFA notes rise in online hate speech
In an independent report published by FIFA, titled the FIFA Threat Matrix Study, over 406,987 social media posts targeting players and coaches during the EURO 2020 Final (England v Italy) and AFCON 2022 Final (Senegal v Egypt) were examined. The study sought to analyze the source and motivations of abusers and looked at content from Twitter and Instagram.
It was found that over 55% of players in both the EURO 2020 and AFCON 2022 Finals were subject to some form of discriminatory abuse. It was also revealed that black players who missed penalties were the most abused in the EURO 2020 final. Homophobic (40%) and racist (38%) comments were the most common form of detected abuse.
“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 FIFA President Gianni Infantino. “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.”
FIFPRO will also provide all players at FIFA tournaments with advice for managing their social media accounts.
Technology in football
Over the last decade, the sports industry has embraced the opportunities offered by technology. For example, in assisting the decision-making process of referees using ‘semi-automated offsides’.
The FIFA President pledged to harness technology in football in ‘The Vision 2020-2023’ to improve the football experience globally.
“Technology is very important and useful in both the pre-match preparation and the decision-making process during matches”, said FIFA Chief Refereeing Officer Pierluigi Collina. This use of AI, to crack down on online hate and protect players, represents the latest way in which technology is used in the sector to enhance the football experience for the better.