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F1 | FIA President Ben Sulayem calls Formula One to stand united against online abuse

After a new wave of online hatred against a FIA volunteer, the President Ben Sulayem announced a series of actions that will be undertaken to stop abuses, while asking the sport to stand united to fight harassment.

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F1 | FIA President Ben Sulayem calls Formula One to stand united against online abuse
Fuente imagen: formula1.com

Online hate is, unfortunately, nothing new in Formula One. A clear example occurred after the Dutch GP, when Red Bull’s trackside engineer Hannah Schmitz was the target of horrible online abuse after.

Schmitz was pictured smiling during the race when the safety car seemingly worked in Red Bull's favour, which sparked a torrent of abuse against her.

Several drivers have opened up about the issue - one being George Russell, who claimed several times that “more needs to be done” to safeguard athletes’ mental health.

In recent days, one of the FIA female stewards, Silvia Bellot, was the subject of death threats. Deplorably, this is not the first time that race officials or marshals, who volunteer to allow safer and more enjoyable races, are the subject of such harassment.

Targeting this unfortunate event, Mohammed Ben Sulayem, FIA president released a statement claiming:

It is totally unacceptable that our volunteers, officials and employees are subjected to this extreme abuse. It has no place in our sport. It has a devastating effect on our mental health and that of our loved ones.

I will always stand up for my staff and volunteers. And let me be clear – without these people there would be no racing. We have to ask ourselves, who would want to pursue becoming a top official in this environment? The reality is obvious - if this continues it will destroy our sport.

The statement proposed a series of actions that the FIA will engage in to tackle the issue:

"As the referee, and as the President you of course expect people to disagree with the decisions you make. But you should expect that those opinions and comments are respectful. This is increasingly rare.

Only through a collaborative approach will we achieve a measure of success in combatting this scourge on our sport.

We have already initiated that process through the following actions:

  • We have entered into dialogue with social media platforms to play their part and we are beginning work with governments and fellow sports governing bodies to bring them together to make strong commitments for joint action.
  • We are commissioning research via the FIA University into digital hate and toxic commentary specific to sport. This will provide a platform for knowledge sharing, education and prevention.
  • We have partnered with Arwen.ai to utilise their AI software to detect and eradicate abusive content on our own channels.

In the coming months we will be launching a concerted campaign by leveraging the power and reach of our entire federation which numbers 244 motoring and sporting organisations in 146 countries on 5 continents.

This campaign will build on the collaborative work by the FIA and Formula 1 through the Drive It Out initiative.

I will be talking more about this at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix later this month.

Passions run high in sport, but online harassment, abuse and hate speech must not be tolerated.

Everyone in our sport, from the media, teams, drivers and fans has a role to play. We cannot ignore this. I urge the entire motorsport ecosystem to take a stand.

We must call it out. It has to stop," concluded Sulayem.

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