A new report has revealed the scale of abuse targeting Premier League players on Twitter amid concerns about racist and hateful messages on the social network.
Research by Ofcom and the Alan Turing Institute has found that while the majority of tweets sent to players are positive, about 3.5% of them are abusive.
The study analyzed more than 2.3 million tweets aimed at Premier League players in the first five months of the 2021-22 season and found that nearly 60,000 were abusive.
It also revealed that 418 of the 618 players analyzed – two-thirds – received at least one abusive tweet, with 8% of abuse targeting a protected trait like their race or gender.
Some of the abuse came after the Euro 2020 final – in which England lost to Italy in the final on penalties – and where there was much discussion about the role of anonymous accounts.
England manager Gareth Southgate says much of the abuse stems from abroad, though Twitter replied that “The UK is – by far – the country of greatest origin” for racist abuse sent to English footballers.
The social media company added that 99% of accounts suspended for abuse are not anonymous, although it did not disclose how many have been suspended.
According to new research, the majority of users who send abusive tweets to players do not necessarily hide behind anonymous accounts as they are also active on the platform for other reasons and regularly send non-abusive tweets. use to the player.
Who is receiving abusive tweets?
Only a dozen players received half of the abusive tweets – and eight of the top ten were all Manchester United players, which shows just how widespread the club’s popularity skews the stats when quantitatively only.
Research has also consistently uncovered a relationship between perceived poor performance on the pitch and abusive messages, leading them to suggest that the messages are often intended to be critical but go too far.
The most abused player as a percentage of all messages directed at him was Ciaran Clark, with 34.1%.
The Newcastle United defender was sent off against Norwich City on 30 November 2021 and research says 78% of all abusive tweets he receives on this day, most in that number appears to be from his club’s fans.
The study found the tweets were “attacks on his poor performance, with many suggesting he should be ‘out’ of the club. A small number of tweets focused on the nation. his citizenship,” the study said.
It added: “Otherwise, Ciaran Clark doesn’t get as many tweets as other players.”
The next most abused player was Crystal Palace’s James McArthur, who was shown a yellow card after stepping on Bukayo Saka’s leg. The report said: “Users who appeared to be Arsenal fans used insults to refer to James McArthur.
For comparison, Benjamin Mendy, a Manchester City defender who has accused of eight counts against five different women, including seven counts of rape involving four womenreceived 405 abusive messages.
This amount accounted for 23.1% of the total amount he received.
“The abusive tweets primarily expressed anger and disgust at his alleged actions,” the study said.
Although Manchester United defender Harry Maguire received more abusive messages in number, these messages accounted for only 14.9% of the messages directed at him.
Many of these messages were sent in response to an apologetic tweet he issued after the defeat to Manchester City.
The driving force behind player engagement was even clearer for Cristiano Ronaldo, who received more abusive texts than anyone else with 12,520 messages but these accounted for just 2.2 % of the total 576,915 messages he received.
A Twitter spokesperson said: “We are committed to combating abuse, and as outlined in our Hate Conduct Policy, we do not tolerate the abuse or harassment of people on the basis of race. race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity or sexual orientation.
“As acknowledged in the report, this type of research is only possible because our public API is open and accessible to everyone. However, our public API is accessible to everyone. We do not take into account the extent of protection we apply, so this is not entirely reflective of user experience.
“We were not provided with the accounts, Tweets or datasets included in this report, so we cannot comment specifically on these,” they added.
“Today, more than 50% of infringing content is displayed by our automated systems, which eases the burden on individuals to report abuse.
“While we’ve made recent strides in giving people better control to manage their safety, we know there’s still work to be done.
“This is a company-wide priority as our product, policy, and engineering teams continue to work at scale and speed to build a healthier Twitter,” they added.