Tuesday 21 March 2023, 10:00

FIFA marks International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

  • FIFA and FIFPRO operated the Social Media Protection Service (SMPS) at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™

  • SMPS hid more than 280,000 offensive comments and reported almost 20,000 to social networks

  • SMPS is also available to all teams and players at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™

Today marks the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, with this year’s focus being on the urgency of combatting racism, and racial discrimination, 75 years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The UDHR states that everyone is entitled to all rights and freedoms, without distinction of any kind, such as race and colour, among others. However, racism and racial discrimination continue to affect people all over the world.

On 18 June 2022, to coincide with the International Day for Countering Hate Speech, FIFA released the findings of an independent report into the levels of online abuse aimed at players taking part in international tournaments. Of those participating in two major competitions in 2021 and 2022, more than half faced some form of online abuse – 38 per cent of which was categorised as racist. Ahead of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™, FIFA partnered with FIFPRO – the worldwide representative organisation for professional footballers – to tackle all forms of online abuse. As part of the #NoDiscrimination campaign, players and teams taking part in the tournament were defended by the SMPS, which helped to limit the effects of social media hate.

Social Media Protection Service (SMPS) at FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™

During last year’s FIFA World Cup™, the service scanned more than 20 million comments, replies and mentions across five major platforms (Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and YouTube). After two stages of review – by both artificial intelligence (AI) and humans – 19,636 posts were verified as abusive and were reported direct to the operator of the platform in question together with a request for further action, with a large number removed as a direct result of being flagged by FIFA. Additionally, all participating teams and players were offered access to a tool which allowed them to automatically and immediately moderate abusive and offensive replies, with 286,895 comments being hidden before the recipient and their followers could see their contents.

Former player Willian, who represented Brazil at a previous edition of the FIFA World Cup, also spoke about the importance of tackling online abuse. “When I was in Brazil a year ago, I was suffering a lot, and my family were suffering a lot because people started attacking us on social media,” said the winger, who was part of the Seleçao’s squad in 2014 and 2018. “That’s why I’m standing now with FIFA to see if you can stop these kind of things,” In the coming weeks, FIFA and FIFPRO will release a full report detailing the levels of online abuse during FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™. The SMPS will also be used at the upcoming FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™ while FIFA will also continue to engage with platforms to ensure they limit the visibility and impact of online abuse.

FIFA’s work in tackling discrimination also extends beyond the internet. Together with the Fare network, an organisation with extensive experience in the fight against discrimination in football, FIFA introduced its first ever anti-discrimination monitoring system in 2015. It’s a system still implemented at FIFA events today, overseen by a former fan activist, who 30 years ago, found himself surrounded by club fans who were chanting racist abuse. He faced a decision: do I search for another hobby, or do I try to make a difference? He chose the latter.

In more recent months, FIFA has employed a new member of the human rights and anti-discrimination team to oversee the development of a strategy to work with FIFA Member Associations. The aim is to implement educational and preventative measures long before an individual tournament starts, with pilot projects currently underway with the Mexican Football Federation, and in Brazil too. As Fare’s Executive Director Piara Powar explained “We want to help create a football culture that is very inclusive, one where everybody feels that they belong. We want to respect the diverse cultures that go into making the whole culture. It’s about underlining the power of football bringing people together.”

FIFA’s #NoDiscrimination campaign was launched at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™. In addition to the SMPS, FIFA World Cup captains called on fans and the football community to stop discrimination in football. Focusing on awareness, education and action, the campaign also ran at the FIFA Club World Cup 2022™ in Morocco earlier this year with support from the participating teams. To date the campaign has reached TV audiences worldwide, fans in the stadiums and many millions more online. Campaign content has ranged from awareness films to useful resources on how to challenge your bias, how to talk to your children and how to be an ally.