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The Moral Imperative to Silence Hate on Social Media: An Athlete Turned Tech Founder’s Perspective

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Toxic comments are rampant on social media platforms, especially in the realm of sports. The time to create a more inclusive and respectful digital landscape is now.

Let’s allow racism to thrive— said no decent human ever.

Let’s ensure homophobia is unbridled — said no decent human ever.

Better yet, let’s clear the path to ensure the cultural power of sports is allowed to exponentially amplify both — said no decent human ever.

These are not good ideas. Yet, they are our reality.

Toxic comments are rampant on social media platforms, especially in the realm of sports. As the CEO of Respondology, a company dedicated to eradicating hate speech from social media, and as a former athlete, I can tell you that the situation is both urgent and dire.

The Scale of the Problem

Facebook alone sees over 1 billion comments per day. Even if we conservatively estimate that just 1% of these comments are abusive, that’s 10 million toxic posts daily. Now, consider the context of a high-stakes game day in professional sports. When an athlete’s mistake costs their team the win, the floodgates of social abuse open wide. We see it happen frequently, even on our own home turf. I live and work in Boulder, Colorado and we’ve recently partnered with the CU men’s basketball team to protect their athletes (and fans) from online hatred. Even the toughest losses don’t warrant the hate that we see audiences throwing at teams on their worst days.

The Real-World Consequences

The Euros 2020 soccer tournament provides one of the most glaring examples of the problem. Young athletes Rashford, Sancho, and Saka took penalty kicks with the weight of their country’s hopes and dreams at their feet. They all kicked. They all missed. England lost. The following days saw these men go from the “Kings of Europe” to the punching bags for angry, racist, vile fans. These athletes, despite their fame and fortune, are human beings. They should not be subjected to such dehumanizing abuse.

The Untold Story

But there’s a more insidious issue at play here. What about the millions of impressionable children who follow their sports heroes on social media? When they see racist or homophobic comments normalized by adult fans, it perpetuates a cycle of hate. We risk raising another generation trained to devalue people based on characteristics like race, sexual orientation, or even athletic performance. These characteristics should never be used as weapons of hate. The sooner we reduce the next generation’s exposure to this, the better.

Our Moral Obligation

As someone who has been an athlete, and as a father of children on social media, I believe we have a moral imperative to act. The technology to mute hate and abuse exists. My team and I wake up every day driven by this mission. We are making a difference—one team, one athlete, one league at a time.

Take Action Now

If you’re involved with a brand or sports organization and you’re not using modern technology to combat this issue, it’s time to act. Reach out to me on LinkedIn. My company, Respondology, can immediately solve this problem for you. Alternatively, you could consider some of our competitors like Crisp Thinking, BrandBastion, Arwen, and Bodyguard. The point is to take action—don’t let your social channels be breeding grounds for hate.

Let’s work together to create a more inclusive and respectful digital landscape.

Because racism is thriving.

Homophobia is thriving.

And sports’ platforms on social media are being used to amplify both.

More of us are decent human beings than not.

The time to act is now.

Erik Swain

 

Erik Swain

Respondology Co-Founder & CEO

Erik’s athletic accolades include:

  • Hall of Fame, University of San Diego Lacrosse
  • MVP, USD Lacrosse
  • 3-time Virginia State Team Tennis Champion

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