Presenters reveal online abuse as BT Sport launches ‘Draw The Line’ campaign

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Jamie Gardner, PA Chief Sports Reporter
·4-min read
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BT Sport presenters and pundits such as Karen Carney, Robbie Savage and Ugo Monye have spoken out about the social media abuse they have received as the broadcaster launches a new campaign to stamp out online hate on its channels.

Savage says he was sent abusive messages within hours of his father’s death, while Carney and Monye have also suffered at the hands of internet trolls.

The broadcaster launches its ‘Draw The Line’ campaign to tackle abuse on its social channels this weekend, as the wider sporting world prepares for a weekend-long boycott of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter amid a torrent of abuse directed at sporting celebrities.

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BT pundit Savage said in a video supporting the campaign: “The worst (abuse) I’ve ever had was 24 hours after my father passed away.

“I was with him every minute in the hospital, and then the next day, (I got) a tweet saying ‘Has your father’s body decomposed yet?’. There will always be a picture in my head of that tweet.”

Presenter Lynsey Hipgrave admits the abuse she received had a “silencing effect” on her, while rugby pundit Monye revealed he had received death threats as well as racist and homophobic attacks online.

BT Sport chief executive Marc Allera told the PA news agency: “It’s really brave of them to speak out about their experiences.

“I know it’s been incredibly uncomfortable for some of them. Unfortunately, that’s what it takes, putting those demons in a corner and getting the message out because they know by doing it, it will help millions of other people.

Rugby pundit Ugo Monye says he received a death threat over a tweet
Rugby pundit Ugo Monye says he received a death threat over a tweet (Richard Sellers/PA)

“We’re obviously close to a few people who really do get some terrible things in very large volumes coming at them which have really impacted them.

“The level of criticism that women in sport are getting at the moment as well, as we try and raise their profile and give them a louder voice, there’s just a torrent of abuse.”

Carney, who deleted her Twitter account after a mocking tweet from Leeds’ official account led to a barrage of online abuse, is due to discuss the issue of online abuse during BT Sport Score on Saturday.

A YouGov poll of over 4,000 people commissioned by the broadcaster earlier this month as part of ‘Draw The Line’ found that abuse is not just an issue facing those in the public eye, however.

It found one in 10 adults – around 5.9 million if scaled up nationally – had experienced online abuse in the last 12 months, with women 40 per cent more likely than men to be abused because of their appearance.

Online abuse was particularly common among 18 to 34-year-olds, with 16 per cent of those respondents saying they had been abused online, and 23 per cent of those identifying as gay or lesbian saying they received abuse related to their sexual orientation.

BT Sport is joining the social media boycott which has been widely adopted across sport, and its channels will only post about the issue of social media abuse during the boycott period.

From this weekend, as part of its ‘Draw The Line’ campaign it will use a combination of AI tools and manual moderation to delete, block and report abuse on its channels.

Moderators at BT have received training from internet safety charity Glitch, which has also developed a tracker tool which detects spikes in abuse on Twitter.

Football matches were found to be a major catalyst. During some of the games where traffic was tracked, as many as three in 10 of all related tweets were deemed abusive.

Across all the tracked matches, there was a 65 per cent increase in religious abuse and a 45 per cent increase in abuse related to sexual orientation, compared to the ‘baseline’ level in a normal week.