In an effort to shield tennis players from the escalating menace of online abuse and threats, the International Tennis Federation (ITF), Women's Tennis Association (WTA), All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC), and United States Tennis Association (USTA) have jointly announced the launch of a proactive monitoring service. The initiative is set to commence on January 1, 2024, and aims to address the significant levels of social media abuse faced by athletes, posing risks to their preparation, performance, and mental well-being.
Named Threat Matrix, this specialised service, developed by AI company Signify Group and supported by Quest's investigations team and fixated threat specialists from Theseus Risk Management, will monitor players' public-facing social media across platforms such as X (formerly Twitter), Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, and TikTok. Notably, the service will extend support to players who receive abuse or threats via private direct messaging, marking a unique feature in its comprehensive approach.
Effective from the start of the new year, Threat Matrix will cover all partner tournaments sanctioned by the participating organisations, as well as any player regularly competing in ITF World Tennis Tour or WTA Tour events, including Wimbledon and the US Open.
The international tennis bodies' commitment to safeguarding athletes from the mental trauma and potential real-world threats posed by online harassment is evident in the development of the Threat Matrix service. Utilising a combination of artificial intelligence and open-source data in 35 languages, the service will: Automatically monitor social media posts directed at players for abuse and threats, provide rapid threat assessments for personal safety, alert social platforms of abuse and fixated threats to facilitate the prompt removal of offending content, assisting law enforcement agencies in investigating the most severe cases and implement educational support programs to help players mitigate abuse and threats.
The initiative stems from a comprehensive study commissioned by Threat Matrix, which monitored over 1.6 million public posts on X and 19,000 Instagram comments directed at a sample of 454 players participating in various professional tennis tournaments in 2022.
Shockingly, one in four players experienced abuse, with 546 offensive Tweets from 438 accounts identified and subsequently shared with platforms and authorities for necessary action.
As part of its commitment to identifying and addressing abusers, the Threat Matrix service will take all available measures against those responsible. The groundbreaking initiative underscores tennis's dedication to supporting its athletes against online abuse and is poised to make a substantial contribution to fostering a safer digital environment for players.