Kellyn Acosta

Kellyn Acosta: "People don't understand online abuse takes a toll on us"

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Kellyn Acosta
  • USA's Kellyn Acosta playing at his first World Cup

  • Midfielder speaks openly about social media abuse

  • FIFA and FIFPRO launched a social media protection service (SMPS) ahead of 2022 World Cup

USA midfielder Kellyn Acosta is currently relishing playing at his first World Cup.

The pinnacle for a player, the World Cup offers enormous opportunities – but it also brings enormous scrutiny.

Under an intense spotlight, players are often subject to relentless and horrendous online abuse.

“As players, we're human beings. What we do as athletes is our profession, but it's not who we are as people,” said Acosta, who is a member of FIFPRO's Global Player Council. “When you say things that are inhumane, it’s very hurtful and sometimes it's in the back of our heads.

“When you make a mistake, which is part of the game, you know you’re going to get abused for it, which is tough and it’s hard to find that balance.

“You try to ignore what people are saying because, at the end of the day, we want to perform to the best of our abilities, please our fans, and play good football.”

To tackle discrimination and to protect the mental health and well-being of players, FIFA and FIFPRO launched a social media protection service (SMPS) ahead of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.

Through SMPS, all players at the World Cup have access to a dedicated monitoring, reporting and moderation service designed to minimise visibility of hate speech aimed at them on social media and, therefore, protecting both players and their fans from online abuse during the tournament.

“Social media abuse is very alarming. It’s been over the top of late,” said Acosta. “It's been tough to see whether it's racist comments, whether it's just mean comments, whether it's wishing [bad] things upon us, wishing [them] upon our families.”

“When we're talking about families or something like that, it cuts a little deeper.

“It definitely needs to stop, and our voice needs to be heard that we're people as well. I think people don't understand that it takes a toll on us.”

FIFA and FIFPRO join forces to combat social media hate speech

The launch of the social media protection service followed the publication of two independent reports produced by FIFA and FIFPRO in June 2022 that highlighted the increasing degree of abuse directed at footballers across social media platforms during international tournaments.

Social media accounts of all participants at the World Cup are monitored by scanning for public-facing abusive, discriminatory and threatening comments and then reporting them to social networks and law authorities for real-world action against those who break rules.

As well as launching the FIFA social media protection service, FIFA and FIFPRO are engaging with social media platforms to have their support in being part of the solution.