Cristiano Ronaldo is a regular target for social media trolls
No Premier League player has received more abuse on Twitter than Manchester United's Portuguese ace Cristiano Ronaldo, according to the findings of a new report.
A probe by Ofcom, the UK government's Office of Communications, analyzed some 2.3 million tweets from the first half of the 2021-22 Premier League season and determined that a figure of around 60,000 offensive messages had been sent to footballers, and that seven out of ten players in the English top flight have had to deal with online abuse at one time or another.
Ofcom also stated that half of those tweets (30,000) had been sent to just 12 players, eight of whom represent Manchester United.
The report also indicated that offensive messaging directed at Ronaldo spiked when he joined Manchester United for a second time last August, with almost 4,000 abusive tweets aimed at the veteran forward.
Ronaldo currently boasts more than 100 million followers on Twitter and his sizeable fanbase on the social media network is thought to partly explain the torrent of abuse he received. On the day that he signed his contract with the club last year, Ronaldo was mentioned in 97% of offensive tweets aimed at footballers in England - and 90% of all total tweets.
The criteria used to determine whether or not a tweet was abusive stated that they must include language which "threatens, insults, derogates, dehumanizes, mocks or belittles a player."
Behind Ronaldo, his club captain Harry Maguire is the second most-targeted player in the Premier League, with the spike in offensive messages directed at him coming following a tweet he issued in response to United's humbling 2-0 loss to rivals Manchester City in November.
Other Manchester United players such as Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood, Bruno Fernandes, Fred, Paul Pogba (who has since left the club) and David de Gea were also listed in the top ten.
Spurs' Harry Kane and Manchester City's Jack Grealish are the only non-United players on the list.
"Over the years, football has made great strides in tackling unacceptable behavior by small minorities which can blight the game for everyone else - from hooliganism, to contemptible racist or homophobic abuse. But those threats never go away; and sadly, as this report reminds, abuse now exists far from the stadium on social media," Ofcom's Kevin Bakhurst said of the findings of the study.
"Many victims - though by no means all - are from minority-ethnic backgrounds."
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However, the report also indicated that the vast majority of tweets directed at players were positive.
Twitter also reacted to the report and outlined that they remain committed to rooting out abusers from its platform.
"We are committed to combating abuse and as outlined in our hateful conduct policy, we do not tolerate the abuse or harassment of people on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity or sexual orientation," a spokesperson said.