The French Tennis Federation (FFT) is offering the players competing at the French Open free use of a content moderation software driven by generative artificial intelligence (AI).
Bodyguard.ai is a tool that will allow the tournament organisers in Paris to moderate any derogatory language aimed at those competing, marking a historic first for the Stade Roland-Garros event’s history.
The software will monitor the accounts of all the players who sign up for its use along with the accounts related to the tournament and its organisers, being equipped with the ability to identify and filter out any hate speech in all its varying natures including homophobic, racist or sexist comments.
This comes in the hopes of further supporting the movement the FFT began in 2018, when a support unit for French players was inaugurated. It will now extend the support and the free use of Bodyguard.ai to all players competing in the 2023 edition of the French Open, which will run until June 11th.
Protecting the mental health of athletes has been an important initiative for the tournament’s organisers for some time now, highlighting a severe issue in the sport. The French Open’s director, Amelie Mauresmo echoed this sentiment as she expressed her hopes for the software to clear the mind and “help everyone have a little more freedom on the court”.
The head of sport at Bodyguard.ai, Yann Guerin, expressed remorse at the state of tennis in relation to the propagation of hate speech, giving this statement:
Social media is a major conduit for expressing hate and hostility, all under the cover of anonymity. We must be alert to this sad reality. There’s no avoiding it, as the cost of doing nothing is too high. We would like to thank the French Tennis Federation and the organisers of Roland-Garros for joining this collective fight.
This is an issue that by no means is exclusive to the professionals in tennis, however the sport seems to be an acute receptor for hate speech.
Numerous participants and legends of the game have fought against the propagation of hate speech in tennis, including Serena Williams who has openly spoken about how it affected her both on and off the court.
Other high profile cases include four-time Grand Slam singles winner, Naomi Osaka, who was unable to compete at the 2021 iteration of the French Open when she withdrew from the tournament expressing how anxiety and depression had prevented her appearance.
Nick Krgyios has also been vocal about how depression has caused him immense distress, speaking about the period leading up to and during the 2019 Australian open:
Most would assume I was doing OK mentally or enjoying my life … it was one of my darkest periods, literally struggling to get out of bed, let alone play in front of millions.
These are issues that have been effectively considered and tangibly prioritised by the FFT which has made far more significant strides when compared to their counterparts in other sports. The Director of the FFT, Caroline Flaissier, had this to say on her organisation’s stance against the online dissemination of hate speech:
We will not accept any form of violence at our tournament. We are very proud to be the first Grand Slam tournament to offer players a solution that efficiently protects them against cyberbullying.
This should also not be overlooked in terms of displaying a further movement towards the integration of generative – AI, which is slowly permeating every aspect of daily life as it makes inroads into the overwhelmingly powerful institution that is organised sport.
For the latest AI and tech updates visit AIBC News.