Female athletes are the main targets of Twitter abuse during the Olympics

Female athletes were the target of 87% of identified abuse on Twitter during the Tokyo Olympics, according to a study released today by World Athletics.

As part of its commitment to protect sport, the global governing body worked with data science firm Signify Group and sports investigation firm Quest Global to better understand the level of online abuse in athletics. .

A sample of 161 Olympic athlete Twitter IDs was selected, with 240,707 tweets analyzed over a three-week period covering the Tokyo Games, with text analysis looking for slurs, offensive images and emojis that could indicate abuse.

The study found 132 targeted discriminatory messages from 119 authors, with 23 of the 161 tracked athletes targeted for abuse during the period. Of the 23 athletes, 16 were female, 115 of the abusive messages targeted female athletes and only 17 male athletes.

Almost two-thirds of the abuses identified targeted only two athletes – both black and female – while the two most common forms of abuse were sexist (29%) and / or racist (26%). Unfounded doping charges accounted for 25% of abusive messages, while 10% consisted of transphobic (9%) and homophobic (1%) messages. Almost 90% of racist abuse was targeted at American athletes, although they made up only 23% of the entire study.

The analysis consisted of a triage process that involved evaluating each of the reported messages, analyzing their content and context, and providing an idea of ​​one of the four required action levels they encountered.

“This research is disturbing in many ways, but what strikes me the most is that the abuse targets people who celebrate and share their performances and talent as a way to inspire and motivate people,” said World Athletics President Sebastian Coe. “Dealing with the types of abuse they suffer is unfathomable and we all need to do more to stop it. Shedding light on the issue is only the first step.

World Athletics said it is conducting additional research in this area and has used the results of this survey to introduce an online abuse framework for its own social media channels to ensure they are free environments. abuse.

In another study published earlier this year, 11% of competitors at the 2018 U20 World Athletics Championships reported experiencing athletic-related physical violence, with 22% reporting sport-related verbal abuse.

In a questionnaire sent to 480 competitors, one in 10 elite young athlete said they had experienced athletic-related sexual abuse, with the authors stating that “the prevalence of verbal and physical abuse indoors and outdoors the framework of athletics is similar between elite young men and women. athletes. “The authors stated that” the prevalence of verbal, physical or sexual abuse is high but overall consistent with what has been reported among elite athletes in countries such as Australia, Canada or Sweden. ” Earlier this month, World Athletics launched its Safeguard Policy, a 16-page document that identifies the specific roles and responsibilities of Member Federations, Regional Associations and World Athletics in protecting athletes and other participants. sport It describes the procedures to be followed in the event of harassment, abuse or exploitation and defines the support processes for victims.

“Track clubs, schools and community sports environments should be safe and happy places for those who play our sport,” Coe said. “Politics is just the start. It needs to be implemented, monitored and developed at all levels of our sport and we will make it a priority as we move forward. ”


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Naomi C. Amerson