BAHRAIN: A significant milestone in the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile’s mission to stamp out online abuse was reached over the weekend with the launch of a white paper on the issue that has become a blight on the global sport.
The white paper, produced as part of a research program under the auspices of the FIA University, has been presented to the FIA’s 241 Member Clubs. It was also shared at the World Motor Sport Council Strategy Meeting in Bahrain.
FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem said: “The release of our white paper further underlines the FIA’s commitment to confronting online abuse. With the support of the European Commission and other sporting governing bodies, we are emboldened by a combined determination to bring about meaningful change through concrete action.
“Sustained online toxicity has reached deplorable levels. We will no longer tolerate FIA volunteers, officials, employees and drivers being subjected to this extreme abuse. It has no place in our sport and if it continues, it could destroy it. We will take a collaborative approach in combatting this scourge on our sport and others.
The document, entitled, “A Strategic Response to Online Hate Speech in Sport,” has been informed by industry experts, government institutions and the FIA’s academic partners. Dr. David Hassan, an academic, writer and associate dean of the Faculty of Life and Health Sciences (Global Engagement) at Ulster University, a member of the FIA’s Online Abuse Working Group, is the document’s author.
The white paper sets out the sustained and collaborative approach the FIA will adopt in confronting online toxicity.
The FIA recognized that online abuse of its participants, officials and volunteers had reached intolerable levels, and the president first revealed details of its pledge to address the matter in a speech at the Annual General Assembly Week in Bologna in December last year.
The document reveals that across the EU, almost 80 percent of people surveyed had encountered some form of online hate, with 40 percent of respondents claiming that they had been either left frightened or threatened by postings they had read online.
It also reports that the FIA will invest significant funding to support research via the FIA University and become the first governing body of sport to launch its own, dedicated research center into online hate.
In terms of addressing the issues on the FIA platforms, the white paper states that after five months of its collaboration with Arwen.ai, the number of toxic comments being posted on the FIA’s social media profiles has been reduced by 66.6 percent.
Across all social media profiles, 92.73 percent of comments were considered safe in September 2022, but within five months that figure had risen to 97.57 percent.
In the coming months, the federation will reveal further details of an action plan that will leverage the power and reach of its global member network.
“We want everyone, the teams, drivers, media and fans to play their part,” Ben Sulayem said. “Only through collaborative action, can we bring about behavioral change. This journey has only just begun.”
He added that the FIA’s aim is to ensure the sport remains fully accessible and welcoming to all by promoting and safeguarding a respectful environment.
Jorge Viegas, president of the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme, said: “The FIM is fully supportive of the FIA’s efforts in launching this campaign to drive out online abuse in sport. We will work together along with a number of other sports governing bodies to tackle abuse and harassment and create a safer environment for competitors and fans.”
Mike Riley, managing director of Professional Game Match Officials, said: “PGMOL is hugely supportive of the progressive steps taken by the FIA in addressing the issue of online abuse across the wider sport ecosystem — something we all feel strongly about. During recent discussions, we have together identified that common challenges are shared around the abuse of our officials, and we look forward to further collaboration with the FIA to bring about change for good.”