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NZ Tech Team Challenges World To Give Racism The Boot On Twitter

Areto Labs launches campaign to combat football racism using a “fanbot” for good

Tech start-up and social enterprise, Areto Labs, has officially launched a crowdfunding campaign called Give Racism the Boot to activate a Twitter bot that will combat racism on Twitter directed at England football players Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka, who received thousands of racist messages on social media after the Euro 2020 final.

“When we saw the racist abuse that Rashford, Sancho and Saka received, we weren’t surprised - analysing this stuff is our day job - but we were nonetheless disappointed,” explains Areto Labs co-founder and chief product officer Jacqueline Comer. “As sports fans and tech specialists, we thought we could put our heads together and came up with a way to empower fans around the world to use our AI-powered tech to change the conversation directed at those players into something more positive and inclusive.”

“We thought, if the social media companies aren’t going to take action, we will. These three England players received online abuse from people all around the world. This is an international problem and with New Zealand hosting three world cup tournaments we need to step up and think about how we will support players on and off the field,” explains Auckland-based Rebecca Lee, Areto Labs’ director of product innovation.

And while this is an international problem, Comer and Lee think they can make a world of difference for players' mental health and wellness from right here in New Zealand. Comer: “We want every fan around the world who believes racism has no place in football to have a hand in supporting these players by combating the hate with messages of support.”

The “fanbot” uses artificial intelligence to identify racist or abusive tweets directed at Rashford, Sancho and Saka and automatically posts positive tweets from fans in response. Fans of all ages can write their positive tweets when they pledge their financial support for the fanbot.

Lee: “We really wanted this to come from fans, who can show their support using more than a hashtag, with our bot amplifying their collective voices. We want the players to see we have their back and the platforms to see fans have had enough of the abuse the players will see who is standing by them and the platforms can from regular people like us who are tired of the trolls attacking our favourite players, who can tell the trolls and platforms once and for all that enough is enough.”

Areto Labs is asking fans around the world to pitch in $5 or more to get their Fanbot up and running, and are hoping to raise $15,000 by the time the FA Cup Season starts in mid-August so they can run the bot for the first couple of months of the season.

“We’d love to extend the bot to other players and ideally run the tech for the whole season, but that’ll depend on the level of support we receive,” explains Comer.

Areto Labs has successfully launched similar technology called ParityBOT in Canada, New Zealand and The United States to support women running for political office, and they’re looking to expand the technology to other sectors who experience high levels of online hate like journalists, public figures, athletes, influencers and anyone who uses social media to advance their causes or careers.

About Areto Labs: Areto Labs is on a mission to dismantle online toxicity through positive interventions. Their vision is equality for humanity through a more positive internet. They have just launched their first B2B bot called Coach that helps organisations build inclusive cultures.

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