The FIA has announced plans to work with an artificial intelligence specialist in an initial move to tackle the amount of online abuse around motorsport.
An FIA statement said AI form Arwen would use “its AI-enabled content moderation platform to help the FIA detect and reduce growing levels of unwanted content” on FIA social channels, Arwen having already worked with the Red Bull, Mercedes and Alpine Formula 1 teams in a similar manner.
FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem will provide further details about the governing body’s efforts to tackle online abuse during the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend.
The statement added that “the FIA has entered into dialogue with social media platforms, governments and fellow sports governing bodies in a commitment to joint action.
“Research will also be commissioned via the FIA University into digital hate and toxic commentary specific to sport.”
The Race says
It’s positive that the FIA is making a “concerted effort” to tackle online abuse, but it can only go so far.
That’s not the fault of the FIA as the problem transcends motorsport. Utilizing AI-enabled content moderation will eliminate some of the abuse but not all of it.
What’s more, there will still be plenty of routes to attack individuals and there are only so many that can be covered off.
The reference to talks with social media platforms points to where the real problem lies. This is a global issue, one that can only really be tackled on that scale by a combination of governments and, most importantly, the tech companies themselves.
And even if you suppress the abuse and the toxic messaging, the fact is that it’s still there. So it also reflects the nasty side of human nature that appears to be magnified by the impersonal, almost ‘gamified’ nature of social media that makes such attacks into some kind of perverse sport.
So it’s good that this is being tackled, but let’s not pretend that it’s within the FIA’s power to do anything more than mitigate it.
The heart of the problems lies well beyond its reach.
F1 world champions Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton both recently voiced their frustration at how toxic social media discourse about the championship had become.
“It’s not great that they are allowed to write these kind of things so I hope we can come up with an algorithm that stops people from being keyboard warriors because these kind of people will never come up to you and say these things in front of your face,” said Verstappen.
“They’re just sitting in front of their desk at home, being upset and frustrated and they can write whatever they like because the platform allows it.
“That can be really damaging and hurtful to some people, not how it should be.”
Hamilton suggested the onus should be more on social media companies than motorsport itself.
“Social media is getting more and more toxic as the years go, we should probably all get off it,” Hamilton said.
“Mental health is such a prominent thing right now, so many people are reading the comments and stuff people say and it is hurtful.
“Fortunately I don’t read that stuff but the media platforms definitely need to do more to protect people, particularly young kids and women.
“But at the moment, they’re not doing that so I think it will just continue.”
Ben Sulayem said the FIA respected fans’ right to criticize the governing body, but felt the “vitriol” level aimed at it on social media had now become too extreme.
“As the governing body, we draw criticism at times for the decisions we take in enforcing technical and sporting regulations,” he said.
“We respect that people are entitled to their opinion and we encourage free speech, but an increasing number of social media posts carry an unacceptable level of vitriol.
“Some of that has been aimed at FIA staff and volunteers. I will always stand up for my employees, officials and volunteers. These people enable us to go racing in a safe and controlled environment. Without them, there would be no racing.
“We have also heard the views of Formula 1 drivers during recent drivers’ briefings at grand prix weekends. They have voiced their concerns over the issue and are committed to action.
“We are calling on the entire motorsport community to unite as one in this mission.”