NBA star Dwight Howard kicked off proceedings at the Arsenal versus Manchester United game in London’s Emirates stadium on Sunday to raise awareness against online hate.
Howard is a brand ambassador for Indian social media app Pixstory, which has partnered with Arsenal and other marquee clubs including Juventus and PSG Feminines to build a better social media space, according to a statement. The app is collaborating with the Oxford Internet Institute on “research towards building a safer and more collaborative social platform”.
“Misinformation undermines our democracies and our societies. Imagine the toxicity, harassment and hate speech our children are at risk of enduring on a daily basis,” Howard said. “I know how it affects me. And I don’t want any athlete, any child, any fan, or anyone on or off the field, to go through this,” he said addressing the crowd.
Sportspersons face frequent online abuse. French footballers including Kylian Mbappe faced racist comments on social networks during the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, while the English women’s team received targeted hate speech on social media during Euro 2022.
According to Pixstory, its “algorithms filter out hate speech, promoting decency in conversations and breaking the echo chambers that have formed on social media”. It has close to a million users across 120 countries, according to the statement.
“We are trying to create a space where integrity is valued over virality,” Pixstory founder Appu Suresh said while speaking on the occasion. “Community over conflict. The truth over trolls. Our phone is the field, and our words are the football.”