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Premier League footballers received 60,000 abusive Twitter messages in the first half of last season

After months of anticipation, the new Premier League season finally begins this weekend, with Crystal Palace against Arsenal on August 5.

Ahead of the new season, Ofcom has revealed on Twitter the shocking magnitude of the personal attacks footballers suffer every day.

According to the latest report from Ofcom, Premier League footballers received 60,000 abusive Twitter messages in the first half of last season.

Half of those tweets were addressed to just 12 players, including Cristiano Ronaldo, Harry Maguire and Marcus Rashford.

“These findings shed light on a dark side of the beautiful game,” said Kevin Bakhurst, Ofcom’s Group Director for Broadcasting and Online Content.

“Online abuses have no place in sport, nor in society at large, and tackling them requires a team effort.”

According to the latest report from Ofcom, Premier League footballers received 60,000 abusive Twitter messages in the first half of last season

According to the latest report from Ofcom, Premier League footballers received 60,000 abusive Twitter messages in the first half of last season

Half of the abusive tweets were addressed to just 12 players, including Cristiano Ronaldo (pictured), Harry Maguire and Marcus Rashford

Half of the abusive tweets were addressed to just 12 players, including Cristiano Ronaldo (pictured), Harry Maguire and Marcus Rashford

Half of the abusive tweets were addressed to just 12 players, including Cristiano Ronaldo (pictured), Harry Maguire and Marcus Rashford

Premier League players who received the most offensive tweets
Player Total number of abusive tweets % of tweets that are offensive Club
Bruno Fernandes 2,464 3% Manchester United
Cristiano Ronaldo 12,520 2.2% Manchester United
David de Gea 1,394 2.1% Manchester United
Frederico Rodrigues Santos 1,924 7.6% Manchester United
Harry Kane 2.127 5.3% Tottenham Hotspur
Harry Maguire 8.954 14.9% Manchester United
Jack Grealish 1,538 4.4% Manchester City
Jesse Lingard 1,605 3.2% Manchester United
Marchus Rashford 2,557 2.6% Manchester United
Paul Pogbag 1.446 3.3% Manchester United

Soccer players are often abused online.

For example, England players Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka were racially treated after missing penalties after England’s Euro 2020 final.

Twitter said it identified and deleted 1,622 tweets during the final and in the 24 hours after the match – rising to 1,961 three days after the match.

Until now, however, the ongoing extent of online abuse directed against football players has remained unclear.

Ofcom, which is preparing to regulate tech giants under new online safety laws, commissioned The Alan Turing, who used machine learning to analyze more than 2.3 million tweets targeting Premier League footballers in the first five months of last season.

A team of experts also manually reviewed a random sample of 3,000 tweets.

The tweets were assigned to one of four categories: Neutral, Positive, Critical, or Offensive.

An abusive tweet was defined as a tweet that “threatens, insults, denigrates, dehumanizes, mocks or belittles a player.”

“That can be implicit or explicit, including attacks on their identity. We include the use of slander, negative stereotypes and excessive profanity,” explains Ofcom.

The manual analysis found that 57 percent of tweets to players were positive, 27 percent neutral, 12.5 percent critical and 3.5 percent offensive.

Similarly, the machine learning analysis of all 2.3 million tweets found that 2.6 percent contained abuse.

Harry Maguire (pictured) received the highest percentage of offensive tweets (14.9 percent), followed by Frederico Rodrigues Santos (7.60 percent) and Harry Kane (5.3 percent)

Harry Maguire (pictured) received the highest percentage of offensive tweets (14.9 percent), followed by Frederico Rodrigues Santos (7.60 percent) and Harry Kane (5.3 percent)

Harry Maguire (pictured) received the highest percentage of offensive tweets (14.9 percent), followed by Frederico Rodrigues Santos (7.60 percent) and Harry Kane (5.3 percent)

Marcus Rashford received 2,557 abusive tweets in the first five months of last season, according to Ofcom's report

Marcus Rashford received 2,557 abusive tweets in the first five months of last season, according to Ofcom's report

Marcus Rashford received 2,557 abusive tweets in the first five months of last season, according to Ofcom’s report

When did the abuse peak?

The highest number of offensive tweets (3,961) were sent on August 27, 2021, when Cristiano Ronaldo was transferred from Juventus to Manchester United.

The second largest number of offensive tweets (2,903) came on November 7 when Harry Maguire apologized for Manchester United’s actions.

The abuse was caused by a tweet from Harry Maguire apologizing for Manchester United’s actions and saying they were going through ‘a rough period’, the report explains.

“Many Twitter users responded with insulting and degrading language, such as saying ‘shut up’ or ‘f*ck off’.”

While these numbers may sound low, they still equate to nearly 60,000 tweets — an average of 362 per day.

Further analysis revealed that about one in 12 of these abusive tweets targeted a player’s race or gender.

In the period studied, 68 percent of players received at least one abusive tweet, while seven percent received abuse every day.

Meanwhile, half of all the abuse was directed at just 12 players, who received an average of 15 abusive tweets each day.

Cristiano Ronaldo topped the list with the highest number of offensive tweets (12,520), followed by Harry Maguire (8,854) and Marcus Rashford (2,557).

However, it was Harry Maguire who received the highest percentage of offensive tweets (14.9 percent), followed by Frederico Rodrigues Santos (7.60 percent) and Harry Kane (5.3 percent).

dr. Bertie Vidgen, lead author of the report and head of online safety at the Alan Turing Institute said: “These stark findings reveal the extent to which football players are exposed to despicable abuse via social media.

“Prominent players receive messages from thousands of accounts on some platforms every day.”

Based on the findings, the researchers are calling on social media companies to do more to protect their users.

“Social media companies don’t have to wait for new laws to make their sites and apps safer for users,” Bakhurst said.

“If we become the online safety regulator, tech companies will have to be really open about the steps they’re taking to protect users. We expect them to design their services with safety in mind.’

In a separate poll of the public, Ofcom found that more than a third of fans who follow football (37 percent) have seen abuse against footballers.

Only one in four flagged or reported the offending content.

“Supporters can also play a positive role in protecting the game they love,” concluded Mr Bakhurst.

“Our research shows that the vast majority of online fans are behaving responsibly, and as the new season kicks in, we ask them to report unacceptable, abusive messages whenever they see them.”

WHAT IS TWITTER’S POLICY?

Graphic violence and adult content

The company does not allow people to post graphic violence.

This can be any kind of gory media related to death, serious injury, violence or surgery.

Adult content – including media that is pornographic and/or may be intended to induce sexual arousal – is also prohibited.

Any form of graphic violence and adult content is allowed in Tweets marked as sensitive media.

However, these images are not allowed in profile or header images.

Twitter may sometimes require users to remove excessive graphic violence out of respect for the deceased and their families.

Unlawful use

The platform may not be used for any further illegal activities.

badges

Users may not use any badges, including but not limited to the “promoted” or “verified” Twitter badges, unless provided by Twitter.

Accounts that use unauthorized badges as part of their profile photos, header photos, display names, or in any other way that falsely imply an affiliation with Twitter or Twitter’s authorization to display these badges may be suspended.

Usernames

Users are not allowed to buy or sell Twitter usernames.

Username cracking – when people take the name of a trademarked company or a celebrity – is not allowed.

Twitter also has the right to delete accounts that have been inactive for more than six months.

Abuse

The context is important when evaluating abusive behavior and determining appropriate enforcement action.

Factors that we may consider include whether the behavior is directed at an individual; the report was made by the target of the abuse or a bystander or the conduct is newsworthy and in the legitimate public interest.

Users may not make specific threats of violence or wish serious bodily harm, death or illness to any person or group of people.

This includes, but is not limited to, threatening or promoting terrorism.

Users may not promote or encourage suicide or self-harm. Users are not allowed to promote the sexual exploitation of children.

Users must not abuse anyone by sending unwanted sexual content, objectifying it in a sexually explicit manner, or otherwise engaging in sexual misconduct.

Users are not allowed to use hateful images or symbols in your profile picture or profile headline.

Private information

Users may not publish or post private information of others without their express permission and consent.

Users may not post or share intimate photos or videos of anyone produced or distributed without their permission.

Users must not threaten to disclose anyone’s private information or intimate media.

Source: Twitter

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