Online abuse targeting footballers to be tackled with ‘world’s first’ AI software | Men’s A-League

We live in an age of rampant online abuse, a modern world in which people can anonymously spread derogatory, harmful and offensive language and the recipient can’t do anything but call them or the police.

In sport, this happens regularly, so much so that in January Liverpool became the first Premier League club to hire a mental health consultant specifically tasked with protecting young players from the trauma of online trolling.

Tracking a troll can be nearly impossible, especially when social media companies do little to weed out the malicious content being spread on their platforms.

Frustrated sports bodies tried to force action; Last year, the English professional football world united in an unprecedented four-day social media boycott to protest the continued abuse and racism aimed at players.

Australian rules football has therefore taken matters into its own hands, with the A-leagues and the players’ union announcing that they will be using – in what they say is a sporting world first – new artificial intelligence software which acts as a filter for stop racist, homophobic, sexist and other harmful comments never before seen by players and their many followers.

The machine learning technology, created by British company GoBubble, will monitor each A-League Men’s and A-League Women’s social media accounts and act as a filter for offensive content, including words, images and the emojis. Content will be identified and blocked for the player and their followers. While still visible to the sender’s followers, the goal is to strip them of their target audience and generally reduce their reach.

The announcement follows a successful trial by leagues and Australian professional footballers over the weekend of February 25-26, when GoBubble Community software was used on the Twitter profiles of Adelaide United, Melbourne Victory and Central Coast Mariners , the clubs participating in the first Pride Game.

This double-header was sparked by Adelaide’s Josh Cavallo, who won global acclaim last year when he became the world’s only openly gay top professional men’s footballer, but also went on to become since then the object of homophobic abuse and even death threats. . Other players including Kusini Yengi and Bernie Ibini have also been targeted.

“These days we often find that the cheapest seats in the house are behind a keyboard, with gamers being subjected to terrible online abuse in the course of their work,” said Julie Inman Grant, commissioner at eSafety. “In November last year, we met with some of the biggest sporting codes in the country and pledged to work together to do more to protect players, coaches and support staff from online abuse.”

Among the 24 organizations to have met with eSafety and signed a statement of commitment were rugby union, NRL, AFL, netball and cricket.

“The A-League is taking the lead in rolling out the use of this technology to all clubs, and we now hope to see this approach replicated by the sport’s governing bodies around the world,” said GoBubble founder Henry Platten. “This powerful step will protect teams, players and communities from online abuse and foster a positive and supportive virtual experience on their social media.”

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