© 2024 Blaze Media LLC. All rights reserved.
English Premier League employs online troll-hunters who seek convictions for 'nasty' comments or messages to players
Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images

English Premier League employs online troll-hunters who seek convictions for 'nasty' comments or messages to players

England's top soccer league employs a group of researchers who are responsible for unmasking the identities of online trolls who allegedly harass players and seeking convictions from local governments if they believe the social media users have broken the law.

A team of seven people said they manage between 50-100 reports per week about online abuse toward English Premier League players, both in the men's and women's divisions.

Using tactics that were originally developed to identify online sources that were illegally posting clips of soccer games, the group is now seeking out individuals who send threatening or harassing messages to its league's players.

The soccer players have allegedly seen an increase in messages that include racism, misogyny, transphobia, or homophobia, the BBC noted. Interestingly, reports have shown that the vast majority of the messages do not come from England, however, meaning the league officials are pursuing cruel commentary from abroad.

The Daily Mail reported that 70% of abusive comments came from overseas, while the BBC's report had that number at 80%.

"We don't often see repeat infringers - the same person sending the same messages. We often see it as one outburst, rather than a real spiral of abuse aimed at one particular individual," said investigative group leader Tim Cooper.

"I don't know if 'troll' is a bit too polite a word for some of the people that send the abuse," Cooper said, adding that the group looks out for "trigger incidents" during games. The online sleuths pay close attention to controversial moments in games and admit to proactively looking for allegedly abusive words while referencing a list of terms, comments, and phrases.

When the group believes the comments or messages have elevated to the level of a crime, they seek convictions in the proper jurisdiction.

This happened in the case of a 19-year-old from Singapore who was convicted of harassing one English league player, Neal Maupay. Cooper said his team "instantly" jumped into action when they received word about abuse of Maupay.

They used public information, likely from a background-checking website, to link usernames, avatars, and accounts to find the man's identity. He was subsequently sentenced to nine months' probation, community service, and was forced to undergo psychological or psychiatric treatment.

"We wanted to get a message out there that doesn't matter where you are in the world, we will hopefully - if you send abuse - be able to find you and be able to take action," Cooper bragged.

Maupay has given multiple statements regarding online abuse and has publicized sample comments he received. In August 2023, Maupay complained about an anonymous account commenting, "Hi, I hope your mom is in grave" after his team lost, remarking that "no one should ever deal with this" in reference to the comment.

The player was one of the first reported athletes to refer his unwanted comments to league officials when he received threats that allegedly read, "Your family will be attacked later in the day just watch," and, "You think by reporting my account you're safe? I will kill you and your family."

While some comments can breach the legal threshold for harassment, the league has understandably faced criticism over censorship and an overreach into social media commentary.

Cooper justified his team's actions by citing some comments as "really nasty abuse." The online investigator also alluded to the idea that some commentary should not be allowed to be posted online.

"We are not removing people's general thoughts or comments on a particular player, on a match or on the league itself," Cooper said. "We're dealing with stuff that's really horrible and shouldn't have any place online," he claimed.

Like Blaze News? Bypass the censors, sign up for our newsletters, and get stories like this direct to your inbox. Sign up here!

Want to leave a tip?

We answer to you. Help keep our content free of advertisers and big tech censorship by leaving a tip today.
Want to join the conversation?
Already a subscriber?