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1 in 5 Women's World Cup players faced online abuse, FIFA report finds

A report found the U.S. women's soccer team faced more than double the amount of online abuse as any other team at the 2023 World Cup.
1 in 5 Women's World Cup players faced online abuse, FIFA report finds
Posted at 7:34 PM, Dec 12, 2023

One in five soccer players who participated in this year's Women's World Cup were subjected to online abuse, a report published by FIFA and global players' union FIFPRO found.

These 150 women were targeted by "discriminatory, abusive or threatening" content, with more than 20% of the abuse being homophobic, 15% categorized as sexual in nature and nearly 14% marked by sexism, according to the report.

The findings, generated by FIFA's Social Media Protection Service (SMPS), make the female players 29% more likely to be targeted by abusive online behavior than their male counterparts who participated in the 2022 Men's World Cup in Qatar.

Particularly, the U.S. women's national soccer team, who entered the 2023 World Cup hoping for a third straight win, was marked as a target, facing more than twice the online abuse of any other competing nation. These numbers were "heightened by the perception of players not singing the National Anthem being called out as unpatriotic and anti-American," the report noted. 

Additionally, SMPS's data found two unnamed players received more hate than anyone else, one from the U.S. and the other from Argentina, pushing Argentina to the second-most-targeted spot.

SEE MORE: USWNT head coach steps down following team's earliest World Cup exit

SMPS aims to shield players, coaches, teams and officials from hate and abuse on their social feeds. Since its launch last year, the service has used AI to monitor and moderate content across five major social media platforms during eight FIFA tournaments, including the past two World Cups.

For this report, which covered the July/August Women's World Cup co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand, SMPS scanned more than 5 million posts and comments and verified over 7,000 instances of abusive or threatening behavior. 

Of the 2,111 accounts that opted to have the service also moderate their pages, the system hid more than 116,000 abusive comments out of 1.3 million.

As for who was making the threatening comments, 67% of abusive accounts were traced back to North and Central America, followed by 21% stemming from Europe.

"Abusive comments are personal attacks on the identities and characteristics of players that can have detrimental effects on their overall well-being and can also lead them to hide and withdraw from who they are and want to be," the report states. "Abusive, discriminatory and threatening behavior has no place in football."

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