AI “Bodyguards” Protect Tennis Stars from Online Hate
By: Victor Zhang
Tennis is a sport that can be played with two or four people. You can play singles, one on one, or doubles, two on two. Though, most top players only play singles, so if you mess up, the blame is only on you. You can imagine how this can be a problem if you mess up in even one of your matches. People on social media will flood your feed with hateful and toxic comments about your mistakes.
For example, several players have received abuse and death threats. Some players have even started to dread checking their phones. CNN Entertainment wrote, “‘People attack all points,’ Townsend tells CNN Sport. ‘… Body image, my race, my skin color – anything that they can try to attack you (with)…’” This is not an isolated incident. According to Reuters, “Tennis players …, as have professional athletes in all sports, with Real Madrid soccer player Vinicius Jr. the most notable recent case. He was on the receiving end of racist chants at Valencia's Mestalla stadium last week and his complaints about Spain and LaLiga not doing enough to fight racism sparked a worldwide wave of support and a national debate in Spain.” This shows that not just tennis players receive online abuse, but players from all sports. This article, published on May 29th, 2023, shows that this has been a problem for a while, and is still not resolved.
This shows that more needs to be done to prevent people from threatening, abusing, and endangering athletes. Even though most players have the most abusive keywords banned, typing an asterisk can bypass it. New technologies like Bodyguard.ai use AI to filter out abusive comments from social media.
Some people are concerned that tech screening posts would violate the right to freedom of speech, but there’s a difference between criticism and toxicity. NPR wrote, “‘We don't remove criticism, what we remove is toxicity,’ he [Matthieu Boutard, Bodyguard.ai's] co-founder 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.’”
This is why we need tech to protect tennis players from online abuse. This has gone too far, death threats, wishing death on people, and toxic behavior.