Female sports stars are sent vile images ‘all the time’ on social media

Uncategorized


Female sports stars are receiving unsolicited pictures of male genitalia in private messages on social media on an almost daily basis, i has been told.

Sending the photographs is a criminal offence yet that is not preventing anonymous social media users routinely directing them to professional footballers, cricketers and rugby players. Women’s Super League football players, many of whom are in their late teens and early 20s, say it is unrealistic to be expected to report all the incidents to police due to the frequency they are sent.

Matt Himsworth, a lawyer specialising in digital media who regularly runs sessions with youth and first-team squads at clubs, tells i: “It was shocking to hear female athletes saying to me this is something that happens all the time. It means social media is an unsafe environment.

“We’re doing lots of education sessions with women’s groups, whether it be under 18s or first-team squads, and we’re being really supportive and saying this is an exciting time, but they’re also going to start to get some of the awful filth that happens with the men’s game and are still going to get the awful filth you get as a female athletes. They will suffer.

“The women’s game will start to get more of that, as they’ll start to get the more casual observers watching.

“The abuse they get is going to increase with the popularity of the game and they’re already getting so much abuse. It’s really detrimental to mental health.”

Himsworth, founder of B5 Consultancy, added: “One thing we say to all women footballers, rugby players, cricketers we work with is it’s not right and it’s not acceptable. It’s a criminal offence to send something indecent, obscene, or menacing in character.

“Our advice to players is if you’re receiving messages that are making your life intolerable then we will support them in relation to any criminal action or prosecution.”

This is, however, the latest example of social media companies failing to get a grip on criminal offences that their platforms enable. Mark Zuckerberg, chairman and CEO of Facebook and Instagram, and Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s chief executive, have so far resisted calls from across sports for all users to face mandatory ID verification.

The move would make it easier for police to identify and catch perpetrators, while the removal of anonymity would, it is hoped, stop some users from acting unlawfully.

Himsworth has also acted for sportswomen, who wish to remain anonymous, who have had their iCloud accounts hacked and explicit images leaked online. In one recent case when he contacted Twitter, where the images had been posted, the company insisted upon being sent ID for the sportswoman before they would take action, despite not requiring this for perpetrators.

They eventually removed the account but “only after I contacted them about my client,” Himsworth says. “That page had been allowed to exist for a year-and-a-half.”

The account had, he added, posted a series of explicit images of female celebrities.

“There are groups of men online who target women in the public eye, seeking to obtain intimate images, usually from their iCloud, and leaking them with no element of blackmail,” he said. “The end goal is to get the pictures out there. The day it happens is the most horrific day for that individual. It’s a storm. They find their account has been hacked. Quite often it’s been hacked months before and the hackers will wait a long time to leak it.

“As a lawyer you can’t wave a magic wand and make it go away because it proliferates. There’s obviously some kind of organisation that happens. Images and photos will appear on lots of different websites to make it difficult to completely clear them.

“The fact there is no consent, by my estimation, is a part of the attraction for these individuals. You can go online and see every single kink imaginable, but what these men want is to see women naked who don’t want you to.

“The fact they are in the public eye, they can see them playing football or rugby or cricket and want to see them in their private moments.”

In another example of the worrying trends on social media, a 16-year-old Women’s Super League player was subjected to a string of “semi-sexualised” comments on Twitter when she was mentioned by a club account.

Himsworth adds: “What world are we living in now where a grown man will sit behind a keyboard anonymously and make comments like that about a 16-year-old girl?”

‘Racism will go on – if it turns a profit’

Social media companies are failing to prioritise eradicating racism from their platforms because it does not yet impact them financially, an expert in social media law tells i.

Swansea City sparked the beginning of what some believe will be an important movement when they announced on Thursday their intention to boycott social media across their club for a week. Scottish giants Rangers and Birmingham City later followed.

Matt Himsworth, a lawyer who advises major clubs and works with high profile footballers, specialises in digital communications and believes social media companies are not dealing with the problem as “it doesn’t impact their bottom line”.

“Football clubs are such big mediums on social media, they generate so much traffic,” he said. “We see a lot more of the revolting side of social media when football is involved. The boycott will be a drop in the ocean for Twitter and Instagram, but it’s a significant drop in the ocean.”

Meetings are taking place within and amongst English football’s leading clubs regarding the issue. If more clubs agree to a boycott “it starts to look like a movement”, Himsworth says.

Himsworth points out that the algorithms that underpin these platforms are incredibly powerful when it comes to increasing their commercial gains and encouraging users to keep engaging, but adds: “One of the biggest disappointments is that the social media giants have not used their tech to make their platforms a safer place. The artificial intelligence they employ is scary and successful.

“They know how long we look at certain types of photos and videos and push more photos and videos like this under our noses, they know what we like, what we dislike, they know what times of the day we are likely to be active, they know when we are likely to be proactive and post, or press the Like button, or click through a website and buy something. They can do all of that in order to maximise the commerciality of their platform.

“It isn’t much of a step to imagine that they can therefore know when an account is acting like a hateful troll, using emojis in order to abuse or distress people, sharing intimate images without consent – and take action.”

In response to social media abuse, Facebook has said: “We don’t want hate and racism on our platforms and remove it when we find it.”

A Twitter spokesperson said: “There is no room for racist abuse on Twitter and we are resolute in our commitment to ensure the football conversation on our service is safe for fans, players and everyone involved in the game.”



Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *