Sky Sports has announced an attempt to clamp down on online abuse after a “surge” in hateful messages during lockdown. The broadcaster recorded an increase in misogynistic posts after its expanded coverage of women’s football and discussion of the Black Lives Matter movement prompted a sharp rise in racist content on its sites and social media channels.
New measures will include more moderation of content on Sky’s own sites, including the removal of posts and blocking of users, and the company has pledged to “work with the social media platforms and policymakers to make their platforms safer and more respectful”.
“We have seen a significant rise in misogynistic and sexist abuse when we post content around women’s sport,” said Mark Alford, director of Sky Sports News & Digital Publishing. “It was particularly distasteful when we launched the Women’s Football Show during lockdown and saw bigoted abuse of some of our guests. We have also seen a lot of hateful comments around our coverage of the Black Lives Matter movement, ranging from the ill-informed to the outright racist.
“It’s not just race and gender, though; we have seen the hate rise across many protected characteristics. It’s hard to put a figure on the rate of increase, but it did feel like lockdown saw a surge.”
This summer, Sky Sports found itself in a confected furore over its flagship Soccer Saturday show. The removal of the long-time pundits Phil Thompson, Charlie Nicholas and Matt Le Tissier prompted a tirade of online abuse against black and female pundits such as Micah Richards and Alex Scott before replacements had even been announced.
Sky insists it remains committed to “journalism that shines a light on social injustices and inequality in sport”. It also says it will “use the power of its reach and voice to highlight the scale of online hate and abuse and the damage that it can inflict upon people”.
Sky is not the first organisation to attempt to confront the toxicity of online discourse, however. The Premier League has been in discussions with Twitter over the abuse of players but measures to effect visible change have yet to appear.