Ben Sulayem: We must unite against online abuse

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Recently, one of the FIA’s female stewards, Silvia Bellot, was threatened with death. It is deeply regrettable that a volunteer like Silvia or any of our marshals and officials, who voluntarily devote their time to allow us to go racing, should be the subject of such hatred.

Indeed, a number of FIA employees have also been the target of intimidation and hate speech in recent years.

It is totally unacceptable that our volunteers, officers and employees are exposed to this extreme abuse. It has no place in our sport. It has a devastating effect on our mental health and that of our loved ones.

I will always stand up for my employees and volunteers. And let me be clear: without these people there would be no race. We have to ask, who in this environment would want to aspire to become a top official? The reality is clear – if this continues, it will destroy our sport.

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As an umpire and as a president, you naturally expect people to disagree with the decisions you make. But you can expect those opinions and comments to be respectful. This is becoming increasingly rare.

Only through a concerted approach will we achieve a degree of success in fighting this scourge on our sport.

We have already initiated that process through the following actions:

  • We have engaged with social media platforms to play their part and are beginning to work with governments and other sports governing bodies to bring them together to make strong commitments for concerted action.
  • Through the FIA ​​University, let’s investigate digital hate and toxic commentary specifically for sport. This provides a platform for knowledge sharing, education and prevention.
  • We partner with Arwen.ai to use their AI software to detect and eradicate offensive content on our own channels.
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Mohammed Ben Sulayem greets Mario Andretti

Photo By: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

In the coming months, we will launch a joint campaign, leveraging the strength and reach of our entire federation, which counts 244 automotive and sports organizations in 146 countries on 5 continents.

This campaign builds on the joint work of the FIA ​​and Formula 1 through the Drive It Out initiative.

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I’ll tell you more about this later this month at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Passions run high in the sport, but online harassment, abuse and hate speech should not be tolerated.

Everyone in our sport, from the media, teams, drivers and fans has a role to play. We cannot ignore this. I urge the entire motorsport ecosystem to take a stand.

We have to cry out. It must stop.