Friday 09 December 2022, 13:30

Jenas: Social media protection service could have ‘massive impact’

  • Jermaine Jenas praises FIFA’s move to defend players against online abuse as part of No Discrimination campaign

  • Former England international produced documentary about social media hate last year

  • Every team and player taking part in FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 offered support against online hate speech

Jermaine Jenas was one of the youngest players in England’s squad when, aged 23, he was selected to represent the Three Lions at FIFA World Cup Germany 2006. At that point in time, social media and football had barely met one-another. Now, though, they are inextricably linked: more than half of the world’s population uses social media, with billions of football fans among that number. Unlike in 2006, the vast majority of the 832 players participating in FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 will have some form of personal social media presence. That provides them all with the opportunity to directly engage with the huge audiences following the tournament online, but also carries some risks – not least the threat of being sent abusive messages.

In June, FIFA released research that found more than half of the players who took part in the semi-finals and finals of two recent international tournaments were subjected to abuse on social media. In response to this, and with the support of FIFPRO, it was announced on 16 November that FIFA would aim to defend teams and players from online hate by launching the Social Media Protection Service, which supports the #NoDiscrimination campaign. The service, which has been developed with the support of FIFPRO, will monitor the accounts of every team and player for abusive messages, reporting them to social media companies and – in the worst cases – law authorities to take real-world action against offenders. Teams and players will also be offered access to software that allows them to automatically hide abusive, discriminatory and threatening comments within milliseconds. “I think it’s brilliant what FIFA are doing in terms of getting involved by creating this service for the players,” Jenas told

“It’s what we’ve all been waiting for and is what’s been needed in the game: something that you can bolt onto your social media that is going to protect you from all these abusive words and emojis, allowing [players] to go and play the tournament. “The benefit to the players is clear: focus on one thing and one thing only. Go and do what you love and enjoy, which is kicking a football around and trying to win a major trophy for your country.” The England squad Jenas featured in was eliminated at the quarter-final stage of the FIFA World Cup – a placing that, in his opinion, would have elicited an abusive reaction if it had occurred in the social media era. “In 2006, I think, as a team, we under-achieved,” admitted Jenas. “We were known as ‘the Golden Generation’ so getting knocked out in the quarter-finals was not pretty. I can only imagine the level of abuse that would have been thrown at us. I think dealing with it would have been really, really tough and probably [would have] impacted my next season as well.”

As well as launching the social media protection service, FIFA and FIFPRO are engaging with social media platforms to have their support in being part of the solution. “Would I be on social media now, as a player? I don’t know,” Jenas continues. “It has its pros and its cons, I think, but, at the minute, we are seeing too many of the cons. It’s enough pressure going to a World Cup and playing football without having to deal with a lot of idiots throwing abuse your way. “There are so many players at this tournament that have had to deal with it (online abuse) a lot this year. So, for FIFA to step in and take that off of their hands – I think it’s one of those things that I think they are going to massively benefit from because it enables them to fully focus on being a part of the greatest tournament on the planet.”