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New Zealand created bot aims to eradicate social media abuse of athletes

New Zealand created bot aims to eradicate social media abuse of athletes
October 4, 2021

Aiming to combat the rising tide of abuse of athletes on social media, a New Zealand created bot is able to reverse negative and abusive comments posted about athletes - especially female athletes, commentators and officials.

As social media has become increasingly important to sport over recent years, an unexpected downside has been the rise in abuse posted on the online profiles of personalities and stakeholders as well as on multiple platforms operated by sports channels.

Aiming to reverse New Zealanders Jacqueline Comer and Rebecca Lee have created the FairPlayBot -a piece of technology that can be attached to social media accounts to automatically respond to negative messages with positive ones.

Licensed and operated by Canada-based Areto Labs, the technology uses machine learning to analyse tweets directed at athletes, commentators and officials in real-time, and automatically and immediately changes the conversation by cheering on positive interactions from fans or calling out those who are abusive.

Advising that the FairPlayBot is its contribution to eradicating the pandemic of social media abuse of athletes, Areto Labs state “our leading-edge athletes and genuine fans know immediately that you have their back and are taking positive action to support them. The technology works to change the overall culture of an online community through language over time by creating new rules of play for community participation.

“For athletes, especially women, social media is an essential part of building their brand, attracting sponsors and endorsements, and growing their fanbase.

“(As) avoiding social media is simply not an option today … we provide real-time insights on the nature and level of abuse athletes, commentators or officials experience, enabling organisations to provide proactive well-being or mental health support.”

Explaining how the technology works, Areto Labs note “working alongside our experts, organisations are in control of how they want to support their athletes to change the conversation. “For example, when an athlete receives a toxic tweet, the bot can automatically respond to this in a range of ways: it could respond to the tweeter directly in the thread, it could respond to the athlete in the thread, giving them a message of support, or it could send a response without including the handle of the athlete or original tweeter.

“Our bot can be branded to represent any sports organisation or one of their sponsors, enabling all stakeholders to get involved and positively support athletes.”

Comer and Lee, who met while they were completing postgraduate studies, developed the bot “to detect toxicity" sent to athletes, realising their study and personal interests could societal impact.

For her Masters project, Comer was originally looking into microaggressions and toxicity in politics and online communities. Lee, meanwhile, was trying to find ways technology could improve the live sports experience (anything from standing in line for food and beverages, to the stadium music, and transportation options to and from venues).

As part of their research, it became clear social media giants were not able, or willing, to protect athletes from online abuse.

Both keen sports fans, Canadian-born Comer moved to New Zealand with her New Zealand husband and daughter, while Lee is originally from the UK but has lived in New Zealand for over 15 years.

Areto Labs was created to use technology to combat online toxicity.

Click here to visit Areto Labs website.

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