The governing bodies of tennis are partnering with Threat Matrix to combat online abuse of players, as announced on December 23, 2023. The International Tennis Federation (ITF), Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC), and United States Tennis Association (USTA) have joined forces with Threat Matrix in an effort to protect players from cyber cruelty, particularly in the form of abusive comments related to racism, sexism, homophobia, and anti-Semitism. This social media monitoring service utilizes Artificial Intelligence (AI) and human oversight to identify and notify appropriate parties, including law enforcement, of abusive comments and threats.
The collaboration, effective January 1, 2024, aims to mitigate the increasing online abuse faced by tennis players, a trend that has been partly attributed to the expansion of legal sports betting across the U.S. The organizations involved have emphasized their commitment to protecting athletes from the mental trauma and potential real-world danger posed by online harassment and abuse.
Tennis, being a sport often played head-to-head, presents players with unique susceptibility to online attacks from discontented bettors. The prevalence of rogue bettors seeking to influence players to fix matches further amplifies the threat faced by tennis players. Threat Matrix revealed that one in four of the 454 tennis players whose social media accounts were monitored last year were subjected to online abuse. The platform was able to identify the individuals behind 438 accounts responsible for levying threats and subsequently provided this information to relevant authorities.
President of the ITF, David Haggerty, underscored the significance of addressing social media abuse, declaring that player safety extends beyond the court. Threat Matrix, which surveys multiple social media platforms in 35 languages, offers rapid threat assessment of personal safety and collaborates with law enforcement in investigating serious cases. The AI firm Signify Group developed the Threat Matrix product with a mission to demonstrate how AI and big data can cultivate social empathy and inspire better products and policies.
The initiative represents a pivotal step towards fostering a harassment-free environment within the sport and reflects the industry’s commitment to protecting athletes from online abuse.