Two in five Premier League players received abuse on Twitter in 2020-21 season, PFA data finds


A new study funded by the Professional Footballers Association has revealed that two-fifths of five Premier League players were subject to abusive messages via Twitter last season.

Signify, an ethical data science company was contracted by the players' union to monitor abuses on social media platforms during the 2020-21 season. The research found that 176 (44%) of 400 players had a Twitter account. Signify utilized machine learning systems to determine that 20 percent of abusive messages were sent only to four players. The study analyzed more than six million posts. A deeper analysis of more than 20,000 flagged posts revealed 1,781 explicit abusive messages from 1,674 accounts. Data shows that unmoderated racist online abuse rose by 48% in the second half 2020/21 football season. Survey results showed that 50% of abusive accounts originated from the UK. A third of the abusive accounts were associated with a UK club. It was also discovered that players in all leagues were subject to homophobic, ableist, and sexist abuse. The former represented nearly a third. Targeted abuse reached its peak in May 2021, just after a four-day football-wide social media ban was implemented to bring more attention to online hatred. According to the report, the May spike was caused by an incident between Chelsea and Leicester in the FA Cup final. This was compounded by the club meeting in the Premier League three more days later. It was also discovered that more than three-quarters of the 359 accounts explicitly sending racist abuses to Premier League, Women's Super League, and English Football League players were still using the platform. Only 56 percent of racist abusive posts were removed during the season. Some posts remained online for months or even the entire season. Maheta Molango, chief executive of PFA, stated that it was time to shift from analysis to action. Signify's collaboration with the PFA clearly shows that technology exists to detect abuse at a large scale and identify the perpetrators of offensive accounts. "Having this data allows for real-world consequences in the case of online abuse. The tech giants can also do this if the players' union is able to. According to the report, Twitter also applied for hierarchical order in moderation. Twenty-seven percent of abusive posts directed towards Premier League players are not visible. This drops to 17% for abuse targeting EFL players, and 12% for WSL players. Troy Deeney, Watford's captain and representative on the PFA Players Board, stated that "Social media companies" are large businesses that employ the best technologists. They could find solutions for online abuse if they wanted. This report shows that they don't. "When is enough? Twitter doesn't believe that the report accurately or completely reflects the proactive enforcement of its rules. New conversation settings were added to the platform that let users, especially those who have suffered abuse, choose who can respond to conversations. A Twitter spokesperson stated that it was their top priority to ensure everyone using Twitter is safe and free of abuse. Although we have made some recent improvements in giving users more control over their safety, there is still much to do. "We will continue to take action whenever we identify tweets or accounts violating the Twitter rules. People are free to express themselves on our site. We have established clear guidelines to deal with threats of violence and abuse, harassment, and hateful conduct. "For example, in the hours after the Euro 2020 final, using a combination of machine-learning-based automation and human review, we swiftly removed over 1,000 tweets and permanently suspended a number of accounts for violating our rules - the vast majority of which we detected ourselves proactively using technology. "We are open to peer-reviewed reports and research from third-party organizations and partners that help us to identify accounts or tweets that violate our policies. This contributes to our efforts to improve the health and quality of the public conversation. It is important to remember that these reports can be made possible by our public API (application programming interfacing) which is open to all. This is unlike most technology companies. "We have engaged with and continue to work with our valued football partners to find ways to address this issue together. "We want you to know that we do not tolerate abusive or hateful behavior on our site. We will continue to swiftly take action against those who try to disrupt the flow of the conversation for the majority. We will continue to take action on the minority that attempts to subvert the conversation for the majority, both online and offline.

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