Tackling online hate in football and shifting the narrative through AI

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For the first time, the Home Office has released experimental data about online hate-related incidents in football. A total of 52 incidents were recorded between 1 January and 28 July 2022, which shows a 136.36% rise from the figure of 22 recorded during the 2021/22 season. (This figure, however, may not sit entirely within the criteria used to record cases in 2022).

The Home Office confirmed that 74 incidents across both datasets provided a “good indication” of online hate crime incidents that satisfied the criteria for further investigation. 

We can see that authoritative action is being taken in the UK with The Metropolitan Police, Staffordshire Police and West Midlands Police recruiting specialist hate crime officers dedicated to dealing with football-related hate crime, whilst the correlation between online and offline hate continues to be investigated by academics.

Still, it’s clear that the issue of online abuse in football is increasing, and its impact on the mental health of players, teams, and their loved ones is of huge concern. So much so that federations, teams, tournaments, and governing bodies are now introducing measures that will reduce the level of online hate in the game, and our tolerance for it.

As the Lionesses play world champions the USA at Wembley tonight, it reminds us that high-profile events such as this, as with the Women's Euros back in the summer, still invite unacceptable levels of hate. 

Earlier this year at GoBubble we announced a ‘world first’ partnership with A-League and Professional Footballers Australia to silence online abuse and bullying for an entire league through the use of our artificial intelligence-led content moderation service.  We’re already seeing this work positively affecting the behaviour of authors, and, in some circumstances, those posting toxic content have reviewed their posts, or expressed empathy and understanding around why their interactions have been blocked or hidden.

Julius Ross, Head of Communications, Professional Footballers Australia, said:

“The PFA partnership with GoBubble has been ground-breaking. In the absence of real action from government and social media companies, and on the request of our professional players in Australia, we've been able to adopt a solution to protect our players and clubs from hate and abuse on social media. Importantly, it's helped to ensure their well-being is safeguarded and has improved their experience online.

Using this technology we’ve already been able to scan thousands of social media posts directed at players and clubs and fans, while only a small percentage has been toxic we’ve been able to identify and mute serious profanity, racism, and anti-LGBTIQ content. We can already see the conversation shifting positively with clubs and fans, and we’re excited to see where we can take this.  It’s been a fantastic result and really great partnership, and we're thankful for the work they’ve been doing to protect the welfare of our players.``

Our technology enables clients to choose whether they want to see abusive and offensive content appearing on their socials, including posts that might affect their reputation and their mental health, and that of their fans. The posts will still appear for the author, so freedom of speech is not affected in any way. This reduces toxicity and creates space for open and engaging discussion, debate, and a greater sense of community through positive, supportive online dialogue, which is changing the game.