Aston Martin driver Fernando Alonso of Spain steers his car during a Formula One pre season test at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain, Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023.(AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
Aston Martin driver Fernando Alonso of Spain steers his car during a Formula One pre season test at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain, Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023.(AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

Motorsport's governing body will attempt to drive out online hate speech and abuse by collaborating with other affected groups.

The FIA said it has support from the European Commission, motorcyling’s governing body, and Professional Game Match Officials Limited — the body responsible for match officials in English professional soccer — to tackle the problems.

The FIA revealed its strategic approach in a white paper on Thursday that “sets out the sustained and collaborative approach the FIA will adopt in confronting online toxicity,” it said in a statement.

The document called “A Strategic Response To Online Hate Speech In Sport" has drawn on expertise from industry experts and government institutions. It was presented to the FIA's 241 member clubs and also shared at a World Motor Sport Council in Bahrain on Thursday ahead of the season-opening Formula One race on Sunday.

Across the European Union, 80% of people surveyed had encountered online hate, and 40% of respondents claimed they were left frightened or threatened, the white paper said.

Seven-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton, who is the only Black driver in F1, has been the victim of online abuse.

Mercedes, the FIA and F1 in 2021 issued a joint statement condemning the racist abuse aimed at Hamilton following the Mercedes driver’s crash with rival Max Verstappen on the opening lap of the British Grand Prix.

After crashing late in the season-ending Abu Dhabi GP in 2021, F1 driver Nicholas Latifi was subjected to online abuse and death threats and hired a bodyguard on a day trip to London.

Latifi's crash led to a safety car, and late drama followed as Verstappen overtook Hamilton on the last lap to win the world title in one of the most controversial moments in F1 history.

Hamilton urged social media companies to do more to stop the spread of online abuse after Latifi's abuse.

Former F1 race director Michael Masi, who made the decision to restart the race and eventually left the FIA, also faced a torrent of hatred and abuse.

“They were shocking. Racist, abusive, vile, they called me every name under the sun. And there were death threats. People saying they were going to come after me and my family,” Masi said in an interview with Australia’s NewsCorp in July. “And they kept on coming. Not just on my Facebook but also on my LinkedIn, which is supposed to be a professional platform for business. It was the same type of abuse.”

Last year, Hamilton said F1 should push away archaic “old voices” and focus on becoming more inclusive, after comments made by three-time F1 champion Nelson Piquet referring to Hamilton by a racial term.

Two-time F1 champion Fernando Alonso has several times called for social networks to do more to curb online abuse. He was asked about the issue, if there had been improvements in the way F1 and the FIA deals with it.

“I think so. I think we are getting better as a sport in many, many areas. I think on this topic, there is always never enough,” the Aston Martin driver said at the Bahrain GP. “But I think we have a good leadership right now. And we are in good hands. So I think we are moving in the right direction.”

The FIA's online abuse working group has secured support for its strategic approach from the European Commission through an endorsement from Mariya Gabriel, the European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth.

PGMOL managing director Mike Riley, a former Premier League referee, welcomed the FIA actions.

“PGMOL is hugely supportive of the progressive steps taken by the FIA in addressing the issue of online abuse,” Riley said. "During recent discussions, we have together identified that common challenges are shared around the abuse of our officials.”

The FIA also said it was holding exploratory discussions with the International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach and FIFA president Gianni Infantino.

The FIA was also partnering with artificial intelligence experts to detect and reduce abuse on its channels.

“With the support of the European Commission and other sporting governing bodies, we are emboldened by a combined determination to bring about meaningful change,” FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem said: “Sustained online toxicity has reached deplorable levels." ___

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