NCAA president uses inaugural address to highlight threats on social media linked to sports betting

January 11, 2024 2:26 PM
Photo: Shutterstock
  • Conor Murphy, Special to CDC Gaming Reports
January 11, 2024 2:26 PM
  • Conor Murphy, Special to CDC Gaming Reports

In his inaugural address as National Collegiate Athletics Association President, Charlie Baker highlighted the critical issue of online threats to college athletes because of sports betting. Recognizing the increasing stress placed on these young athletes amid the surge of collegiate betting, the NCAA is taking steps to address and mitigate these challenges, the new president said.

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Baker highlighted a concerning trend: the rise of legal sports betting has led to a spike in negative social media interactions aimed at athletes, coaches and officials, often tied to betting outcomes. A recent NCAA survey revealed that 10 percent of Division I campus administrators were aware of student-athletes being harassed online or in person by people with gambling interests.

To combat this, the NCAA has formed a partnership with Signify, a data science company that has previously worked with the NBA Players Association and WNBA. Signify’s involvement will be primarily through its Threat Matrix artificial intelligence service, as announced by the NCAA in December.

This service will monitor and analyze online abuse and threats directed at NCAA Championship participants. Its capabilities extend to more than 35 languages and include monitoring emojis and images. It stands as the largest study in North America to delve into this growing issue.

Threat Matrix, set to go live this month, will focus on platforms like X, Instagram and TikTok. It aims to provide comprehensive reporting procedures, coordinate directly with social media platforms for the removal of abusive content, and offer data to inform the NCAA’s future educational and policy developments.

“We are delighted to be working with the NCAA on this hugely exciting and ground-breaking initiative to enhance the online safety of college athletes and participants in the wider college sports ecosystem,” Jonathan Hirshler, CEO of Signify Group, said upon the partnership announcement. “Over the coming months, I am confident that we will not only unearth deep insights into online abuse and threats in college sports but also help drive real action in this space in partnership with the NCAA, platforms and law enforcement agencies.”

Addressing the NCAA membership, Baker said the system “basically tracks ugly, nasty stuff that’s being directed at people who are participating in their tournaments, and we’d use it the same way, and it can shut it down or basically block it. And in some cases even track back to where it came from.”