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A-Leagues, PFA to use anti-abuse software

Artificial intelligence software will be used to shield A-Leagues players from social media abuse as part of a deal struck by the leagues and Professional Footballers Australia.

The players’ union and leagues have partnered with GoBubble to use their GoBubble Community automated software that hides hateful comments on social media channels.

The software, which monitors social media accounts in order to identify and deal with abusive, derogatory, harmful or offensive content, will be rolled out across the leagues’, clubs’ and players’ accounts in the A-League Men and Women.

Crucially, it prevents the person running the account, like a player, or their followers, from seeing harmful comments.

A-League Men players have previously shared their experiences of being targeted with vile abuse on Twitter and Instagram.

In 2020, former Melbourne Victory player Josh Hope, then 22, quit professional football due to the anxiety caused by online abuse from fans.

Adelaide’s Kusini Yengi received racist abuse on Instagram after scoring against Melbourne Victory in March last year.

Meanwhile Josh Cavallo, the only openly gay player currently playing in a men’s top-flight league, received homophobic abuse after playing against Victory in January.

“Football has a unique power to connect people from all walks of life, and we want the A-Leagues to be the most welcoming and safe place at every level – in our online communities and in real life,” A-Leagues chief executive Danny Townsend said.

“There is no place for online abuse in our game, and this move is part of our duty of care to players and our fans.

“GoBubble Community’s technology shields anyone who follows player, club and league accounts from seeing harmful abuse and keeps our communities safe.”

The leagues previously trialled the software between February 25 and 26 across three clubs’ Twitter accounts.

Adelaide United hosted a double header of pride games, against Melbourne Victory in the ALW and Central Coast in the ALM, with all three clubs using the software on their Twitter accounts.

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