To tackle discrimination and to protect the mental health and well-being of players, FIFA and FIFPRO – the worldwide representative organisation for professional footballers – are launching a social media protection service (SMPS) in advance of the 2022 FIFA World Cup – Qatar.
Through SMPS, all players from all 32 participating member associations at the FIFA World Cup will have access to a dedicated monitoring, reporting and moderation service designed to minimise visibility of hate speech aimed at them on social media and, therefore, protecting both players and their fans from online abuse during the tournament.
“FIFA is committed to provide the best possible conditions for players to perform to the best of their abilities. At the 2022 FIFA World Cup – Qatar, we are happy to launch a service that will help to protect players from the damaging effects that social media posts can cause to their mental health and well-being,” FIFA President Gianni Infantino said.
“It is football’s responsibility to protect the players and other affected groups against the abuse they increasingly face in and around their workplace. This type of abuse has a profound impact on their personalities, their families, performance as well as on their overall well-being and mental health,” said FIFPRO President David Aganzo. “We hope that the social media protection service provides a starting point to help to defend participants from abusive messages and that social media companies join and support us in tackling the issue at the FIFA World Cup.”
Former Brazil forward Willian is supporting the launch of the FIFA social media protection service, having experienced first-hand the difficulties related to online abuse. His recent experience playing in Brazil – where his family were threatened and abused online – forced him to return to England, where he is now playing for Fulham FC.
“I was suffering a lot, and my family were suffering a lot because people started attacking us on social media, attacking my family, my daughters, and that’s why I’m standing now with FIFA to see if you can stop these kinds of things,” Willian said.
The launch of the social media protection service follows the publication of two independent reports produced by FIFA and FIFPRO in June 2022 that highlighted the increasing degree of abuse directed at footballers across social media platforms during international tournaments.
As a result, FIFA is monitoring the social media accounts of all participants at the FIFA World Cup by scanning for public-facing abusive, discriminatory and threatening comments and then reporting them to social networks and law authorities for real-world action against those who break rules.
Teams, players and other individual participants will also be able to opt-in to a moderation service that will instantly hide abusive and offensive comments on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, preventing them from being seen by the recipient and their followers.
As well as launching the FIFA social media protection service, FIFA and FIFPRO are engaging with social media platforms to have their support in being part of the solution.