Online abuse can manifest in many ways and have a serious impact on the mental wellbeing of the victim and their family, which can have a detrimental effect on performance, attracting further abuse. The consequences of this kind of abuse are varied and can lead to the destruction of a player’s value and earning potential, while affecting their mental health in ways that might not become evident until years later.
The current upward trend in high-profile incidents of online abuse has forced the issue into public discourse and, while it is universally condemned, it still persists.
The challenge faced by victims and sporting governing bodies is a perceived lack of action being taken by the social media companies to stamp out this behaviour and deplatform those responsible and, where necessary, provide support to law enforcement. This inertia led to the recent boycott of social media by UK sporting bodies on the May bank holiday weekend. This coincided with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport publishing new internet laws in the draft Online Safety Bill aimed at making social media sites, websites, apps and other hosting services more accountable for tackling online abuse.
In the absence of a cogent response to incidents of online abuse, the complexities of the legal parameters around the protection of free speech and the increasing sophistication of those responsible for anonymizing their profiles, there is a sense of helplessness shared by victims. While Facebook recently announced a new feature on Instagram that intends to filter out certain words, phrases and emojis from direct messages, this is unlikely to prompt a meaningful reduction in cases of online abuse.
At Kroll, we specialize in tracking down wrongdoers online and exposing their real-world identities. Recently, we revealed individuals hidden behind private social media profiles responsible for the racial abuse of Premier League footballers.
Over the last decade, Kroll has heavily invested in technology to refine our toolset and methods that enable us to navigate and interrogate vast volumes of open source data. This includes automated social media searches and enrichments augmented with image recognition technology.
Our expert investigators drive these tools that pivot off data points and leverage this data in intelligent reviews, which is critical in most cases. Our multistage methodology is specifically designed to unmask bad actors (including those behind private accounts) and achieve maximum disruption and deterrence. Working with our clients we investigate serious abusers, collaborate with law enforcement and social media platforms, advise on civil solutions and consult on the best actions to proceed with on a case-by-case basis.
There is still a lot of work to be done to tackle online abuse. The start of this work is to implement a sustained disruption and deterrence program that involves collaboration from all parties involved to stamp online abuse out of sport and beyond.
In a recent survey, we asked communications leaders about the evolving risk landscape and how they are dealing with increasing threats to their corporate reputation posed by the accelerated sharing of information online. Read the report, here.