The vast majority of social media posts directed at England women’s triumphant Euro 2022 football players across a three-month period were positive, research has found.
The study of 78,141 posts on Twitter, Reddit and the imageboard website 4chan identified more than 50,000 positive posts – roughly one “hate” post for every 125 “hope” ones.
About 380 were classed as sexist or homophobic, while the rest were either negative or neutral.
Prof Matthew Williams, director of Cardiff University’s HateLab, which carried out the analysis, said: “Last year we saw horrendous racist abuse directed at individual players after England’s men’s team lost on penalties to Italy in the Euro 2020 final.
“In the women’s Euros, we found far fewer posts directed at individual England players, which is perhaps unexpected but may be reflective of the different audience for the game and positive sentiment around the team’s success.
“The nature of the 380 posts we identified was concerning, including attempts to scorn the success of women’s football, players being told in some of the less offensive posts to ‘get back to kitchen’ or to ‘make a sandwich’, and suggestions women should not be playing football. There were also grossly offensive posts that made sexual references. It is surprising that most of these posts remain live on the platforms.”
The study developed new algorithms to analyse thousands of English-language posts sent from 2 May-1 August.
Researchers found England players received 50,422 positive posts during the 13-week period. The largest number was during last month’s final against Germany, where England won 2-1 after extra time to lift their first major women’s tournament – and only the second in England’s history.
In total, 380 posts were identified as sexist hate speech, following a similar trend over time to the positive content, and peaking with 93 posts during the final.
In comparison, after England’s penalty misses in last year’s final defeat to Italy at Euro 2020 at Wembley, there were 920 racist posts identified each hour at the peak of communications on Twitter.
The analysis of the hate speech posts against the women found that most were misogynistic (96%) and 4% homophobic.
Williams said: “Governments and social media companies need to go further, but ultimately, until the majority of users of these platforms become upstanders against hate instead of bystanders, we are unlikely to see the eradication of hateful abuse from our online spaces.”
In June, a report by Fifa, the game’s world governing body, and FifPro, the global players’ union, used artificial intelligence to track more than 400,000 posts on social media platforms during the semi-finals and final of Euro 2020 and this year’s Africa Cup of Nations.
The study revealed more than half of the players involved were subjected to some form of discrimination.
Much of the abuse came from their home nation, with 40% of it homophobic and 38% racist in nature – and most remained visible.
Fifa and FifPro announced a dedicated in-tournament moderation service across men’s and women’s football that will scan recognised hate-speech terms and prevent offending messages from being seen by the intended recipient and their followers.