Report by ITV Granada Reports journalist Rachel Townsend
Almost three quarters of Premier League players have been subjected to "vile" online abuse, it has been revealed in a damning report highlighting the "dark side" of the sport.
According to the figures, just 12 players - nine of which are based in the North West - received half of all abuse aimed at footballers, an average of 15 tweets daily.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Harry Maguire and Marcus Rashford received the highest number of abusive tweets.
One in 12 attacks targeted a victim’s characteristic, such as their race or gender.
What players were targeted the most?
Cristiano Ronaldo, Manchester United - 12,520 abusive tweets received
Harry Maguire, Manchester United - 8,954 abusive tweets received
Marcus Rashford, Manchester United - 2,557 abusive tweets received
Bruno Fernandes, Manchester United - 2,464 abusive tweets received
Harry Kane, Tottenham Hotspur - 2,127 abusive tweets received
Fred Rodrigues Santos, Manchester United - 1,924 abusive tweets received
Jesse Lingard, Manchester United - 1,605 abusive tweets received
Jack Grealish, Manchester City - 1,538 abusive tweets received
Paul Pogba, Manchester United - 1,446 abusive tweets received
David de Gea, Manchester United - 1,394 abusive tweets received
The scale of trolling of professional players has been brought to light in a new report by Ofcom, who regulate tech giants under new online safety laws.
Alongside the Alan Turing Institute, it analysed more than two million tweets directed at Premier League footballers in the first half of the 2021/2022 season.
It found 60,000 were abusive in nature, equalling to one every four minutes.
Ofcom is calling for social media firms to toughen regulations on their websites and apps to make it safer for users.
Kevin Bakhurst, Ofcom’s Group Director for Broadcasting and Online Content, said: “These findings shed light on a dark side to the beautiful game.
"Online abuse has no place in sport, nor in wider society, and tackling it requires a team effort.
"Social media firms needn’t wait for new laws to make their sites and apps safer for users.
"When we become the regulator for online safety, tech companies will have to be really open about the steps they’re taking to protect users.
"We will expect them to design their services with safety in mind."
What will online safety laws mean?
The Online Safety Bill will introduce rules in the UK for sites and apps such as social media, search engines and messaging platforms to make it safer for users.
The law will tackle the causes of online abuse, by "ensuring companies design their services with safety in mind from the start."
What are clubs with the most Abusive tweets directed at players?
Manchester United - 37,892 abusive tweets received
Manchester City - 5,213 abusive tweets received
Chelsea - 4,908 abusive tweets received
Arsenal - 3,830 abusive tweets received
Liverpool - 3,743 abusive tweets received
Tottenham Hotspur - 3,059 abusive tweets received
Everton - 1,330 abusive tweets received
Aston Villa - 1,305 abusive tweets received
Leicester City - 991 abusive tweets received
West Ham United - 755 abusive tweets received
A Twitter spokesperson said more than 50% of abusive content is surfaced by their automated systems.
In a statement the company said: "We are committed to combating abuse and, as outlined in our Hateful Conduct Policy, we do not tolerate the abuse or harassment of people on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity or sexual orientation.
"As acknowledged in the report, this type of research is only possible because our public API is open and accessible to all. However, our publicly accessible API does not take into account the range of safeguards we put in place, so this does not completely reflect the user experience.
"We have not been provided with the accounts, tweets or dataset included in this report so we are unable to comment on these specifically.
"Today, more than 50% of violative content is surfaced by our automated systems, further reducing the burden on individuals to report abuse.
"While we have made recent strides in giving people greater control to manage their safety, we know there is still work to be done.
"This is a company-wide priority as our product, policy and engineering teams continue to work at scale and pace to build a healthier Twitter."
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