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FIFA and FIFPRO reaffirm commitment to tackling online abuse

Today, on the United Nations International Day for Countering Hate Speech, FIFA has released a report into the levels of online abuse aimed at participants during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ based on findings from its social media protection service tool .

The report is published days after FIFA President Gianni Infantino met with Vinícius Júnior – the victim of several shocking racism incidents while playing for his club this season – to discuss how football responds to discriminatory issues.

“Discrimination is a criminal act. With the help of this tool, we are identifying the perpetrators and we are reporting them to the authorities so that they are punished for their actions,” said FIFA President Gianni Infantino. “We also expect the social media platforms to accept their responsibilities and to support us in the fight against all forms of discrimination. Our position is clear: we say no to discrimination.”

FIFPRO President David Aganzo added: “The figures and findings in this report do not come as a surprise, but they are still massively concerning. They represent a strong reminder for everyone involved in our game, and it must lead to providing preventative measures and solutions for players who are increasingly facing this type of abuse.

“Football has a responsibility to protect the players and other affected groups around their workspace. Therefore, FIFPRO and FIFA will continue their collaboration and provide the same service at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. But we cannot do this alone – we need all stakeholders to play their part if we want to create a safer and better environment for football.”

One year ago, FIFA announced that it had joined forces with FIFPRO – the worldwide representative organisation for professional footballers – to coordinate and implement a plan on how to protect participating teams, players, officials, and supporters from abuse on social media during its international tournaments.

As a result of that commitment, which was made on the back of independent research into the levels of online abuse at two previous international tournaments (UEFA EURO 2020 and CAF Africa Cup of Nations 2021), FIFA and FIFPRO established the Social Media Protection Service (SMPS) – a package of tools designed to protect participants at FIFA events.

In the report released today, it is revealed that the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 quarter-final between England and France led to the largest spike of abuse during the tournament. 38% of identifiable abuse came from accounts based in Europe, with 36% from South America.

The SMPS scanned over 20 million posts and comments on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, and YouTube throughout the tournament and, following specialist artificial intelligence (AI) flagging of abusive comments, strengthened by two layers of human analysis, 19,636 posts/comments were confirmed by the service provider as abusive, discriminatory, or threatening.

These posts/comments were reported directly to the relevant social media platform(s) for breaking their community guidelines. In many cases, the offending posts were removed by the social platform in question as a direct result of being reported by FIFA.

Additionally, participating teams and players at the tournament were offered access to moderation software that would instantly and automatically hide offensive comments (including spam) from their pages, with a total of 286,895 comments hidden from public view before the targeted recipient or their followers had to see their contents.

More than 300 individuals who made abusive, discriminatory, or threatening posts/comments during the tournament have been verifiably identified and this information will be shared with the relevant member associations and

jurisdictional law authorities to facilitate real-world action being taken against offenders.

The FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™, which begins in just over a month’s time, will also feature SMPS support, with several participating teams having already agreed to implement the moderation element of the service to immediately and automatically limit visibility of online abuse.

In addition, FIFA continues to engage with social media platforms to encourage them to take more action against those who send abusive, discriminatory, and threatening messages to teams and players participating in its tournaments and will continue to share information about offenders with member associations and jurisdictional law authorities to support potential real-world action being taken against them.

FIFA also provides a confidential, dedicated, highly secure and web-based whistleblowing system so that individuals can report abuse. Users can attach supporting documentation and create an anonymous postbox that allows them to correspond with FIFA without submitting personal information. FIFA takes a zero-tolerance approach to all forms of abuse in football, and all issues raised will be handled in line with our statutory rules, codes of conduct and internal guidelines.

Credit: FIFA 

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