Over 150 players at the 2023 Women's World Cup received targeted abuse on social media, with a FIFA report showing that the United States women's national team squad received more than twice the number of discriminatory or threatening posts of any other competing nation.
Two unidentified players -- whom FIFA has chosen not to name to protect the individuals from further abuse -- representing the U.S. and Argentina received significantly more abusive messages than any other players at the tournament.
A study commissioned by FIFA, in conjunction with global players' association FIFPRO, has released the data generated by the FIFA Social Media Protection Service (SMPS) during the Women's World Cup, staged in Australia and New Zealand in July and August.
Over 5.1 million posts and comments in 35 languages on social media platforms -- Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, X and YouTube -- were analysed for abusive content by the artificial intelligence programme, with 102,511 posts subsequently flagged and analysed by humans.
Two-thirds (67%) of accounts posting abuse were traced back to accounts registered in North and Central America, and, of 7,085 posts flagged as being abusive or threatening, 6,184 were sent from X accounts.
According to the SMPS data, abusive posts towards the U.S. team centred on them not singing the national anthem before games. There was a noticeable spike in abuse after the U.S. failed to beat Portugal in a group game on Aug. 1, while the detected abuse on all platforms reached a tournament high on Aug. 6 following the USWNT's exit after their defeat against Sweden.
The SMPS data noted that many abusive messages were sent in response to President Joe Biden commiserating with the U.S. players.
Spain's victory over England in the final prompted the second-largest spike of abusive messages, with several Spain players targeted with sexist and misogynistic comments after the incident when then-Spanish FA president Luis Rubiales kissed player Jenni Hermoso during the trophy presentation ceremony.
While general abuse accounted for 23.31% of the offending messages, anti-gay messages (20.4%) and messages of a sexual nature (15.03%) were also large in volume.
"There can be no place on social media for those who abuse or threaten anyone, be that in FIFA tournaments or elsewhere," FIFA president Gianni Infantino said.
"Through the Social Media Protection Service -- which was introduced one year ago, with the support of FIFPRO -- FIFA has helped reduce the exposure of players, teams and officials to online abuse and hate speech by reporting and hiding more than 400,000 comments.
"Discrimination has no place in football and no place in society. Together, we say: NO DISCRIMINATION!"