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AI Blocking Hateful Comments From Reaching Tennis Players

By: Johanna Wu

Tennis stars like the American Sloane Stephens are getting many hate comments on social media. "My entire career, it's never stopped. If anything, it's only gotten worse," she said.

Tennis is an individual game so there is a lot of pressure on the player. Many people place bets on tennis or other sports. So, if a player loses, they will have many haters going after them. "I have a lot of keywords banned on Instagram and all of these things, but that doesn't stop someone from just typing in an asterisk or typing it in a different way, which obviously software most of the time doesn't catch," Stephens added.

Recently, the tournament's organizers may have found a solution. They are offering players an AI tool to stop abuse from reaching the players' social media feeds. This technology is more complicated than the keyword filter Stephens is using. The app can find out who the comment is aimed at and what it means. This technology was created by the French firm "AI is a lot more complex in the sense that it understands context," says Matthieu Boutard,'s co-founder, "So it's a very different ballgame."

Free speech advocates are worried about how screens comments before they can be posted. Boutard says his technology isn’t used for that purpose. "We don't remove criticism, what we remove is toxicity," he said. "The line is actually pretty clear. If you start throwing insults, being racist, attacking a player, using body shaming, that's not a criticism, and that's actually toxic to the player." Boutard says that it seems to be working. About 10% of comments aimed at players were toxic but the app screened out 95% of those.

Iga Swiatek from Poland, is currently the number one women’s tennis player in the world, approves of this app. Swiatek used to go on social media to see what people thought about her matches after her tournaments. She realized that there was no sense in reading all of the hateful comments because many people were unhappy she lost when she was in the finals.

"It's just sad to kind of see that the thing that was supposed to kind of make us happy and make us socialized is giving us more negative feelings and negative thoughts," she said. "So, I think these kinds of apps maybe will help us to, I don't know, use social media and not worry about those things." Swiatek recently got into the French Open semi-finals. She hopes that will bring some joy back into social media.

Many players have been receiving hateful comments on social media. is a promising tool to stop those comments from getting to the many players out there.


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