• Roland Garros Tournament Draw

Last week, a tennis player eliminated in the previous phase of Roland Garros had to fit that 70% of the messages received on his social networks came from haters, that kind of amateur haters who poison the internet. The problem is not circumstantial but has become an epidemic. "Being an individual sport, in tennis helplessness is accentuated. It harms the mental health of the player, reduces his performance and exposes him to his own followers. It can even affect sponsors, who do not want around them any type of messages of racist or homophobic content, "explains Yann Guerin, head of sports at Bodyguard, in conversation with EL MUNDO in the area of Roland Garros players.

Bodyguard is a French application born five years ago in Nice by Charles Cohen whose objective is to protect the accounts of individuals and companies from insults or offenses. This year it has signed an agreement with the French Tennis Federation to shield, without exercising censorship, the official account of the tournament and that of the federation itself, as well as that of any player who so wishes. "In general, tennis players are young people who lack all the weapons to handle their overexposure in the networks," says our interlocutor, without separating for a moment from the laptop.

Alarmed by the news about suicides of young victims of cyberbullying, Cohen created this protective weapon to fight a social problem. "Ours is a mission, more than a business objective," says Guerin, without revealing the benefits that, logically, generates this ambitious initiative, estimated in the spring of last year at nine million euros.

His landing in football occurred in the French League. "We are now entering Spain through an intermediary company. In France they also face problems of racism and homophobia, as has happened now with Vinicius in LaLiga. What happens in the stadium sometimes has its origin or its mouth in the networks, "says Guerin.

Good reception

At the moment, between 40 or 50 tennis players have scanned the QR code provided by Bodyguard to connect their accounts on social networks Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Twitch, YouTube and Discord to the system. Bodyguard's system moderates feedback in real time, analyzing each in less than 200 milliseconds. "We have a team of linguists who create word structures to provide the algorithm with the context of the comment in an unattainable time for the human being. It's about creating a safe space from a fine analysis, cleaning up the toxic, also detecting emojis, without people losing the freedom to express themselves or to exercise criticism."

Children of their time, there are many tennis players who have recognized something similar to addiction with social networks. Paula Badosa, very active in them since adolescence, to the point that they constituted one of her problems to make the transition from the junior stage to the professional circuit, decided to leave for a few weeks in order to preserve a certain tranquility before the ferocity of the attacks received.

"Each player has an identification code, a user IP, which could even allow us to initiate legal action through lawyers in order to try to identify the senders of toxic messages," explains Guerin. "We also have different filters when it comes to examining comments. For example, a luxury products company is not the same as sports, where there is a lot of passion."

Aware of the work that the French Tennis Federation had been doing for some years, it was Bodyguard that took the initiative to join the effort. "We have moved fast. They have understood that their responsibility as a public entity is to promote education among young people, as well as diversity, inclusion and the fight against discrimination." Caroline Flaissier, Director General of the FFT, said: "The health of the players is a priority for the Roland Garros tournament. We are proud to be the first Grand Slam tournament to offer players a solution that efficiently protects them against cyberbullying so they can be in peak mental condition when competing in the tournament."

The implementation of the idea, which in principle ends a week after the conclusion of the tournament, aims to have greater flight. "We are in contact with the International Tennis Federation and the ATP to continue working throughout the year," says Guerin.

  • tennis
  • Paula Badosa

According to the criteria of The Trust Project

Learn more