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French Open offers players tool to filter out online abuse

PARIS – The French Open is offering players at the 2023 tournament free access to a tool that will filter hateful messages on their social media platforms in a bid to prevent cyberbullying and harassment, organisers said on Monday.

The French Tennis Federation (FFT) said that artificial intelligence will be used to moderate comments players receive on posts in real time – with responses analysed in less than 200 milliseconds – and care will be taken about what is censored.

“As part of its strategy to take care of the players’ mental health, the FFT decided to collaborate with ‘Bodyguard’ to fight against cyberbullying,” the FFT said in a statement.

“A team of linguists creates word patterns that enable the system to be updated in real time according to what is posted on social media, in order to generate a more contextual analysis.”

The FFT added that the technology will be used to protect all official FFT and Roland Garros social media accounts as well as those of players who opt for it for the duration of the Grand Slam and at least a week after the May 28-June 11 tournament has ended.

Social media platforms that will be monitored are Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, TikTok and Discord.

“We will not accept any form of violence at our tournament,” FFT director Caroline Flaissier said.

“We’re very proud to be the first Grand Slam tournament to offer players a solution that efficiently protects them against cyberbullying. We want to protect players from this damaging behaviour, to enable them to be in peak mental condition when they compete.”

In other tennis news, former world No. 1 Simona Halep has accused the International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA) of seeking to further delay her independent tribunal doping hearing and said she is being denied her right to be heard.

The 31-year-old has been provisionally suspended since October 2022 after testing positive for banned blood-booster roxadustat at the US Open in the same year.

Halep has strongly denied knowingly taking the banned substance and has said she has evidence to show that small amounts of the anaemia drug entered her system from a licensed supplement that was contaminated.

She has said she sent evidence about the contamination to the International Tennis Federation and hoped her case would be heard by an independent tribunal in February but that it was postponed and a new date in March was also put back.

Last week, the Romanian was charged with a further and separate breach of the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme and asked again to be judged by an independent tribunal.

In a statement posted on Twitter, Halep said that while the ITIA stated it was committed to engaging her in an “efficient and timely manner” they were at the same time requesting the tribunal delay her hearing for a third time.

“I am once again extremely shocked and disappointed by the ITIA’s attitude,” she added.

“I have repeatedly asked for my hearing and the ITIA has repeatedly sought to delay it. I am entitled to a quick hearing. Acting this way is contrary to my rights.”

The independent ITIA said in a statement that it proposed both charges were heard together to avoid multiple hearings. REUTERS