FIA's anti-abuse white paper "commendable", says author

A top Northern Ireland academic has penned a white paper it is hoped can eradicate the “scourge” of online abuse and hate that currently exists across all forms of world motorsport.
FIA's anti-abuse white paper

The 14-page document is the work of Dr David Hassan – a professor and Associate Dean of Sport Management and Policy at Ulster University’s Magee Campus in Londonderry.

Entitled ‘A Strategic Response To Online Hate Speech In Sport’, it sets out a six-point plan for tackling what the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) has identified as an “existential threat”. 

Commissioned by FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem, the white paper is considered a “significant milestone” and has already been circulated amongst the FIA’s 241 member clubs in 146 countries. 

The blueprint sets out the “sustained and collaborative approach” the FIA intends to adopt in “confronting online toxicity” on the basis it believes it has now reached “intolerable levels”. It follows the findings of an Online Abuse Working Group that was set-up specially for the project. 

The findings revealed that across the European Union, some 80% of those people surveyed confirmed they had encountered some form of online hate, with 40% of participants saying they had been left frightened or threatened by online posts they had seen. 

Dr Hassan – who has been a member of the FIA’s Strategic Task Force since 2013 following his appointment by the World Motor Sport Council – says motorsport’s governing body has acted swiftly to address the matter.

“The leadership taken by the FIA in seeking to first highlight and then respond to this issue, which is problematic across all sports, is commendable,” he said. 

“Its partnership with Arwen, for example, has had a meaningful impact in reducing online hate speech on its own social media channels.

“At the end of January – after five months of the FIA-Arwen collaboration – the number of toxic comments being posted on the FIA’s channels had reduced by 66.6%. 

“What I believe the FIA has recognised is that the image of the sport, as an inclusive and diverse one – a truly global one – is threatened by instances of hate speech and the Federation accepts that it cannot be a mere bystander on these matters – it must become actively involved as part of the solution,” he added.

President Ben Sulayem first raised the FIA’s pledge to tackle “digital hate” at an event in Italy last December in which he called for a collaborative approach with different sporting codes.

This has since led to partnerships being forged with the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM) and initial talks with Thomas Bach – the International Olympic Committee President – as well as the FIFA President, Gianni Infantino. 

“Sustained online toxicity has reached deplorable levels. We will no longer tolerate volunteers, officials, employees and drivers being subjected to this extreme abuse,” Ben Sulayem told the World Motor Sport Council Strategy Meeting in Bahrain last week.

“It has no place in our sport and if it continues it could destroy it. We will take a collaborative approach in combatting this scourge on our sport and others – we are united against abuse.”


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