England footballers continue to receive abuse on Twitter during World Cup

Friday 02 Dec 2022

England footballers were sent 1,546 abusive tweets during the group stages of the Fifa World Cup, according to data analysis by The Alan Turing Institute, accounting for 2% of the more than 75,000 tweets mentioning players for the national team.

The Institute’s online safety team found that 13% of those abusive tweets – or 205 posts – contained keywords that referred to a protected characteristic such as race, gender or sexuality.

Researchers analysed negative posts sent to players’ Twitter handles during England’s three group games. England finished top of their group, qualifying for the knockout stages.

Negative tweets directed at England players reached a peak during the 0-0 draw with the USA, according to the analysis by the institute, which is the national institute for data science and artificial intelligence. Nearly 5% of tweets sent during the match were abusive, compared with 1.5% for the games against Iran and Wales.

The study defined an abusive tweet as a message that tags a player’s Twitter handle and threatens, insults, derogates, dehumanises, mocks or belittles a player, including with slurs and negative stereotypes, as well as excessive use of profanities.

The analysis by the institute’s online harms observatory, using an AI model, follows a study by the same team into Twitter abuse of Premier League players published in August. Despite fears of an increase in hate speech on Twitter in the wake of Elon Musk buying the platform in October, the World Cup analysis showed a close correlation with the Premier League research, which looked at the first half of the 2021-22 season, with 2.6% of the Premier League tweets being abusive, compared with 2% in the World Cup. The World Cup study did not check whether the abusive tweets were taken down or demoted.

See the full story in the Guardian