A Premier League footballer is abused every four minutes on Twitter – with eight of the 10 most abused players playing for Manchester United.
Harry Maguire, Cristiano Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes were among the most abused Premier League players in the first five months of the 2021-22 season, according to a report from Ofcom and the Alan Turing Institute.
The study of 2.3 million tweets sent the day after the Euro 2020 final – which saw Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka abused online after missing penalties for England – found that an average of 362 abusive tweets were sent daily, including seven out of 10 in the Premier League. players on Twitter abused.
About one in 12 abusive tweets targeted a victim’s protected characteristic, such as their race or gender.
Ronaldo received the most abuse during the period -12,520 tweets – but also received the most total tweets, 576,915, meaning that 2.2% of the messages he received were abusive.
Maguire was second, receiving 8,954 abusive messages, which is 14.90% of the tweets he received. Many of these messages were sent in response to an apology tweet he made following a loss to Manchester City.
Fernandes, David de Gea, Fred, Jesse Lingard – who now plays for Nottingham Forest – Rashford and Paul Pogba, who joined from Juventus, are other United players who have suffered significant abuse.
England captain and Spurs striker Harry Kane and Man City midfielder Jack Grealish were also in the top 10.
The player who received the most abuse as a percentage of all messages directed at him was Ciaran Clark, at 34.1%.
The Newcastle defender was sent off against Norwich City in November and 78% of all the abusive tweets he received came that day, with most appearing to come from fans of his own club.
The tweets “attacked his perceived poor performance, with many suggesting he should ‘get out’ of the club. A small number of tweets focused on his nationality,” the study found.
He added, “Otherwise Ciaran Clark doesn’t get a lot of tweets compared to other players.”
The second most abused player was Crystal Palace’s James McArthur, who was shown a yellow card after stepping on Saka’s leg. “Users who appear to be Arsenal fans have used slurs to refer to James McArthur,” the report said.
Kevin Bakhurst, Ofcom Group Director for Broadcast and Online Content, said: “These results highlight a dark side of the beautiful game. Online abuse has no place in sport, or in society at large, and addressing it requires a team effort.
“Social media companies don’t need to wait for new laws to make their sites and apps safer for users. When we become the regulator of online safety, tech companies will need to be very open about the steps they take to protect users, and we’ll expect them to design their services with security in mind.
“Fans can also play a positive role in protecting the game they love. Our research shows that the vast majority of online fans behave responsibly, and as the new season kicks off, we’re asking them to report any unacceptable and abusive messages every time they see them.”
Dr Bertie Vidgen, lead author of the report and head of online safety at the Alan Turing Institute, said: “These brutal findings reveal just how despicable abuse footballers are being subjected to on social media. Prominent players receive messages from thousands of accounts on certain platforms daily, and it would not have been possible to find all the abuse without these innovative AI techniques.
“While fighting online abuse is difficult, we cannot leave it unchallenged. More needs to be done to stop the worst forms of content to ensure players can do their job without being abused. abuse.”
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