Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Harry Maguire have been the victims of the most Twitter abuse of any Premier League player, according to a new report.
Ofcom’s analysis of 2.3 million tweets in the first half of last season revealed almost 60,000 offensive posts affecting seven out of 10 top division players.
Half of those insults were directed at just 12 people – eight from United.
However, the Alan Turing Institute study also found that the vast majority of fans use social media responsibly.
“These results shed light on the dark side of a great game,” said Kevin Bahurst, Group Director of Broadcast and Online Content, Ofcom.
“Network violence has no place in sports or in society at large, and fighting it requires a team effort.”
Ronaldo and Maguire most targeted
The report identified two peaks in the frequency of offensive tweets.
The first occurred on the day Ronaldo returned to Manchester United on 27 August 2021, with three times as many tweets as on any other day (188,769), of which 3,961 were offensive. 2.3%, which is slightly lower than the daily average.
The volume of posts is largely due to Ronaldo’s 98.4 million followers. On that day, the Portugal striker was mentioned in 90% of all tweets addressed to Premier League players and in 97% of offensive tweets.
The second peak came on November 7, when defender Maguire tweeted an apology following the Manchester United incident. 2-0 home defeat in Manchester City.
There were 2,903 abusive tweets on the subject – 10.6% of that day’s total – with many users responding to Maguire’s post with offensive or derogatory language.
The report also found that a duplicate tweet using the same phrase was sent to Maguire 69 times by different users within two hours.
The study states: “It is possible that this duplication occurred because users saw the offending message and chose to reproduce it, suggesting organic organization rather than coordinated behavior.”
The Alan Turing Institute said there is increasing interest in understanding the organization of abuses on the Internet, given the harm caused by coordinated attacks and “heaps.”
Other players received a lot of abuse after the “trigger” despite receiving relatively few tweets overall.
Newcastle defender Ciarán Clarke, now on loan at Sheffield United, was sent off in November against Norwich City and 78% of the offensive tweets he received were on that day.
Meanwhile, Crystal Palace’s James McArthur has also been the target of a flurry of abuse after he received a yellow card in October for stepping on Bukayo Saku against Arsenal.
The researchers will also look into whether the surge occurred during the incident, which involved the West Ham defender. Kurt Zouma kicks and spanks his cat became known because it happened after the data had been collected.
How was the research?
In preparation for regulation of tech giants in line with new internet safety lawsOfcom has teamed up with the Alan Turing Institute, Britain’s national institute for data science and artificial intelligence, to analyze more than 2.3 million tweets directed at Premier League footballers in the first five months of the 2021-22 season.
The study created a new machine learning technology to automatically assess whether tweets are offensive, while the panel of experts also manually reviewed a random sample of 3,000 tweets.
Of this sample, 57% were positive about the players, 27% were neutral, and 12.5% were critical. The remaining 3.5% were offensive.
Of the 2.3 million tweets analyzed by the machine learning tool, 2.6% were offensive.
“These harsh findings show the extent to which footballers are subjected to vile abuse on social media,” said Dr. Bertie Widgen, lead author of the report and head of online security at the Alan Turing Institute.
“Although it is difficult to fight online abuse, we cannot leave it unattended. More needs to be done to stop the worst forms of content so that players can do their jobs without being abused.”
What are the recommendations?
The UK is set to introduce new laws aimed at improving the safety of online users while maintaining freedom of expression, with rules for sites and apps such as social media, search engines and messaging platforms.
“Social media companies don’t have to wait for new laws to make their sites and apps safer for users,” Ofcom’s Bahurst said.
“When we become the regulator of online security, tech companies will need to be really open about the steps they are taking to protect users. We expect them to design their services with security in mind.
“Fans can also play a positive role in protecting the game they love. Our research shows that the vast majority of online fans are acting responsibly, and with the start of the new season, we are asking them to report inappropriate, offensive messages whenever they see them. .”
Twitter says it welcomes such research to help improve communication across its platforms, and also points to a number of online abuse and security features it has implemented to keep such messages from reaching individuals.
A Twitter spokesperson stated, “We are committed to fighting abuse and, as stated in our Hateful Behavior Policy, we do not tolerate harassment or harassment of people based on race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation.
“As noted in the report, this kind of research is only possible because our public API is open and available to everyone. fully reflect the user experience.”
Twitter said it didn’t see the data, but said 50% of all “offensive content” was discovered by its own processes to help a person report a violation, adding that “we know there’s still a lot to be done.”
European football’s governing body, UEFA, pledged last month to work with social media platforms to combat online abuse as part of the Respect campaign during the UEFA Women’s European Championship.
Other projects have included BBC Sport’s ‘Hate Can’t Win’ campaign with Sky Sports, and in April 2021 football clubs, players, athletes and a range of sports organizations launched a four-day social media boycott in an attempt to fight abuse and discrimination. .