Abuse in Sports Online Communities. How do We Handle it?

What the Reports Tell Us

Since 2020, international sports associations, trade unions and independent analysts have paid attention to how many hate attacks on athletes happen during competitions. This awareness has led to a lot of research about abusive behavior in online sports communities. Proprietary studies were presented by FIFA and FIFPRO, the Conversation, World Athletics, Australian sporting organizations, eSafety, NBPA, and others.

Is it Because of Social Media?

Toxicity breeds toxicity. At the beginning, bullying is directed against athletes, then it spreads to other fans, training staff, then to athletes’ relatives and friends. Toxic comments and messages don’t have any limitation period, because they were posted in public accounts on Twitter, Instagram, and other social media, therefore, they continue getting impression and being shared.

Real steps

Many people think that the reason for abusive behavior on social media is the anonymity, but its not all that simple. Social media is not a space to be completely anonymous, and when an author of any hate speech comes into view. E.g., after the bullying waves during the EURO 2020 Final, a lot of online abusers were called into the police.

Gareth Southgate consoles Bukayo Saka, who missed England’s final penalty in the shootout ©AFP

Pitfalls to Avoid

Of course, this is not the first attempt that has been made to fight toxicity in online spaces. So, e.g., in 2021 Xinning Gui, PhD at the Pennsylvania State University, made a presentation at the Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. She shared what instruments are used to struggle with abuse in cybersport space and how players use them for their personal value. For example, they are flagging game competitors, not abusers.

Sifan Hassan of Team Netherlands celebrates after winning the gold medal in the Women’s 10,000m Final on day fifteen of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games (Photo by Cameron Spencer / Getty Images via CFP)

Watchers experience

We provide opportunities to communicate and to create online communities based on content, and FIFA’s attitude is similar to our own. But the Matrix Threat company, which partners with sports trade-unions, has to fight windmills — to global social media, whose policy terms have already existed, their moderation system is automated and isn’t able to adapt to each event or situation.

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Watchers is a white label solution, which provides the ability to create online rooms on your platform. Learn more: https://watchers.io