Wimbledon is monitoring social media to try to protect players from cyberbullying



LONDON (AP) — The All England Club is monitoring social media to try to help protect players at Wimbledon from cyberbullying for the first time this year.

“This is not something you’ll see in the public domain at all. You won’t see us shout about it. But effectively, we are scrolling social media for any of this type of content, and it means that we can get information that we haven’t had in the past. We’re not just relying on what the player might be saying has happened to them,” tournament director Jamie Baker said Friday. “Also, if there is something that is of concern, that’s when our security (team) … can help do something about it.”

Baker said the new initiative is similar to what the French Tennis Federation did during the French Open last year, when it began paying a company to provide players with software that uses artificial intelligence to block negative comments.

FILE – Spectators sit under an umbrella on a covered court after rain delayed the start of play on day three of the Wimbledon tennis championships in London, Wednesday, July 5, 2023. This year’s Wimbledon tournament begins on Monday, July 1.(AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, File)

“Tennis is doing a lot more of this now, so I think in general, for the athletes, it’s really positive that we’re taking this step,” said Baker, a former player.

He said AI plays a role in the All England Club’s efforts in this area, but people also are involved in keeping an eye on what’s being directed at competitors online during the two-week Grand Slam tournament that finishes on July 14.

FILE – Spectators look at the order of play on day eight of the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London, Tuesday, July 6, 2021. This year’s Wimbledon tournament begins on Monday, July 1.(AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali, File)

Players can opt in for the service and choose to have full scans of what is being posted on social media. Messages can include anger expressed by gamblers who lost money on a particular match, racist comments and even sometimes rise to the level of death threats, players say.

“The basis of it is if they’ve got anything that we think is a concern or worth flagging, ultimately, it’s engaging with the player,” Baker said. “The benefit of having it is, you do have the ability to … officially register what’s going on.”

FILE – Security guards are shown at the gate in front of Centre Court at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, after the 2020 tennis championships were canceled due to the coronavirus, in Wimbledon, London, Monday, June 29, 2020. This year’s Wimbledon tournament begins on Monday, July 1. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, File)

After a discussion with the player, the tournament could reach out to the police, if deemed necessary, although Baker declined to say whether that has happened yet.

“I guess, if it got to a point where there was any type of criminal activity,” law enforcement authorities would be brought in, Baker said, adding: “But that would be out of our hands. We’d obviously pass that on. … But we’re not obviously stepping in and becoming the police.”