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“We need a respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas.” Pope Francis, Let us Dream, December 2020

Twitter needs an ‘auto-ban’ for racist messages, says sports chaplain after Premier League stars are targeted

The Westminster Diocesan Chaplain for Sport has urged Twitter to use artificial intelligence (AI) software to instantly delete offensive comments after racially abusive tweets targeting Premier League footballers were found on the site up to five years after being posted.

The Press Association found dozens of historical posts with racist language aimed at Premier League players such as Mohamed Salah, Danny Welbeck and Raheem Sterling.

Similar racists posts were also found which targeted Chelsea’s Michy Batschuayi, Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Tottenham’s Moussa Sissoko.

Twitter deleted the tweets after they were brought to its attention.

However, Mgr Vladimir Felzmann has now suggested that social media companies should implement AI technology in order to ensure that such offensive messages are deleted as soon as they are posted.

“Racism is, alas, deeply rooted in all too many immature humans. Tech companies could programme their software to instantly delete offensive and racist words whenever they are posted,” Mgr Felzmann, who is also the CEO of the John Paul II Society for Sport, told The Catholic Universe.

He also urged people to post positive messages about all players. “Decent supporters should be able to post positive messages about players from ALL races. Staying silent is not enough. Remember, evil will triumph if the good do nowt.”

The posts were discovered a day after the Government issued a White Paper on online harms, which proposes new measures to regulate internet companies who do not adequately protect their users.

At the launch, Home Secretary Sajid Javid said: “We cannot allow the leaders of some of the tech companies to simply look the other way and deny their share of responsibility even as content on their platforms incites criminality, abuse and even murder.”

Asked about the posts and those responsible for them, Twitter said: “We don’t comment on individual accounts for privacy and security reasons.

“Our primary objective is to serve and improve the health of the public conversation. This means more quality, credible content, building new policies and safety tools, and tackling issues such as abuse which detract from the health of the public conversation.

“This is paying dividends and we’ve seen a marked reduction in abuse reports. We will continue our singular focus on protecting the customers we serve,” it said.

The company said it “introduced over 70 changes to make the service safer, including investment in better machine learning technology to help us proactively limit the spread of abusive content”.

However, it was unable to immediately explain how the abusive tweets had remained on the platform for so long.

Anti-racism campaigners Kick It Out said the technologies Twitter has in place to tackle the issues are “evidently” not working.

“Twitter says abuse and harassment has ‘no place’ on its site, but it is obvious that there really is a place for it there and in our view the problem is getting worse,” a spokesperson said.

Forthcoming Premier League fixtures:

Saturday 20th April

Manchester City v Tottenham Hotspur – 12:30pm
AFC Bournemouth v Fulham – 3:00pm
Huddersfield Town v Watford – 3:00pm
West Ham United v Leicester City – 3:00pm
Wolverhampton Wanderers v Brighton & Hove Albion – 3:00pm
Newcastle United v Southampton – 5:30pm

Sunday 21st April

Everton v Manchester United – 1:30pm
Arsenal v Crystal Palace – 4:00pm
Cardiff City v Liverpool – 4:00pm

Monday 22nd April

Chelsea v Burnley – 8:00pm

Tuesday 23rd April

Tottenham Hotspur v Brighton & Hove Albion – 7:45pm
Watford v Southampton – 7:45pm

Wednesday 24th April

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Arsenal – 7:45pm
Manchester United v Manchester City – 8:00pm

Friday 26th April

Liverpool v Huddersfield Town – 8:00pm

Picture: Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah was one of the recipients of racist abuse. (Martin Rickett/PA).