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Premier League clubs could soon roll out ‘game-changing’ technology that strips anonymity of racist and homophobic trolls

Emma Powys Maurice July 6, 2020

Online trolls who target football players could soon have no place to hide (Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images)

Threat Matrix, a new technology described as a “game-changer” for tacking abuse in football, could soon help Premier League clubs unmask racist and homophobic trolls who abuse football players online.

The project was developed by London digital technology group Signify, which helped tackle antisemitism in the Labour party. It aims to uncover the identities of abusers without breaking privacy laws, identifying hate speech before it gets reported.

“We can identify types of abuse, provide evidence of where it is coming from and, sometimes by deep-dive investigation, who it is coming from. We can capture it before it’s reported,” co-founder Jonathan Sebire told the Mail on Sunday.

“In the long-term, if it becomes known we have the technology, we hope we can help lower the amount of online abuse. But it can only happen if the clubs buy into it.”

Some 90 per cent of LGBT+ people say homophobia and transphobia in sport is a problem, while one in five reported experiencing physical violence in the past year.

Racism remains a pervasive issue and there has been a 50 per cent increase in football-related racist incidents within the past year.

While clubs are beginning to take action to against abuse in their stands, many players continue to face daily harassment online.

Football clubs could stamp out online abuse for £5,000 a month.

Costing just £5,000 a month, the new software has reportedly been offered to around a third of Premier League clubs so far, and live trials have already been carried out with one London-based club.

“A number of clubs have shown huge interest and we’re looking to get something up and running for next season,” Threat Matrix co-founder Jonathan Hirshler said.

“We are also in advanced talks with FIFA over running a pilot study to cover international football.”

Sanjay Bhandari, the head of Kick It Out, is backing a pilot programme for up to eight clubs next season. “Why does online abuse proliferate? Because of anonymity and the feeling of being able to act with impunity,” he said.

“It’s like the Wild West on social media. This could be a game-changer and I would seriously advise clubs to buy into it.”

More: football, online trolls, premier league, Threat Matrix

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