Blog Banner

BT launches campaign to tackle online hate as new research shows that more than one in ten people have experienced online abuse this year

First Team News | 30th April 2021

Today BT is launching Draw The Line – the first stage of a multi-million pound BT campaign to step up and stand against hate speech and abuse on social media. 

New YouGov research commissioned by BT reveals the true societal scale of social media abuse:

  • More than one in ten, over five million people, have received online abuse over the last twelve month
  • Half the population have seen online abuse in the past year
  • Online abuse is worse for women with one in five women that received online abuse saying it was about their appearance.
  • The younger the age the more likely you are to experience abuse, sixteen per cent of all 18-34 yr olds have experienced abuse
  • Twenty-three percent of people who identify as gay or lesbian have received online abuse about their sexual orientation
  • One in seven people believe that those working in the public eye should expect abuse 

BT Sport will spotlight the issue across the channels and introduce an anti-online abuse policy, deleting, blocking or reporting hate and abuse on its own channels and being an active bystander.

BT is launching its “Draw The Line” campaign to stand against hate speech and abuse on social media. The campaign aims to address the problem by raising awareness of the impact of online hate and advocating change, as new research commissioned by BT and YouGov shows that over 1 in 10 have experienced some form of online abuse in the last year and over 1.8 million people have experienced threatening behaviour online in the last 12 months. 

BT’s campaign Draw the Line will spotlight the issue across BT Sport channels for the remainder of the season and see the implementation of an Anti Online Abuse Policy.  BT will proactively respond, delete, block or report hate and abuse to ensure its own social channels are safer spaces for their communities. 

Wider data from the YouGov research showed that minority groups are more likely to receive abuse, with a quarter of the population having seen racist abuse online.  Women are also significantly more likely to suffer online hate, with one in five women that received online abuse saying it was about their appearance.

‘Draw the Line’ has been developed with support from Glitch, a UK charity making the internet safer for everyone. Glitch training has upskilled the BT team to become active bystanders online, as well as help develop an AI Abuse tracker tool, which tracks the level of abuse on Twitter.    This has shown that:

  • During high profile football matches which were tracked, we have seen 3 in 10 abusive tweets sent before a ball is even kicked
  • During one 90 minute match there was a 350% increase in abusive Tweets in just 5 minutes as teams failed to score
  • Across all the matches tracked, we observed a 65% increase in religious abuse and a 45% increase in sexual orientation abuse 
  • During the course of another tracked match – an average of 1 in 10 abusive Tweets in the UK were sent from ‘Troll’* accounts. A high proportion of participants in our YouGov survey reinforced this saying those who had experienced abuse said it came through troll accounts.


With 1 in 7 people believing those in the public eye should expect abuse, when the BT Sport on-air team were surveyed, all reported experiencing online hate. Most controlled their exposure to comments by waiting days or weeks after a major televised event before looking at their mentions.  

Marc Allera, CEO of BT’s Consumer Division commented, “For too long we have just accepted that hate online is the norm. Today we are launching Draw the Line – a campaign on BT Sport which marks the start of a BT focus on tackling social media abuse”

“We’re working on building a better understanding of what we don't see, by using technology to build a more accurate picture of the scale of the problem.  Over the next few months, you will see our own social teams proactively respond, delete, block or report hate speech and the abuse we see on our channels.

“And this summer, BT and EE will make big investments in activity to raise awareness of the issue and give people the digital skills to protect themselves and support others on social media.” 

“There can be no place for online hate in the connected, digitally-inclusive UK we want to help build. None at all.”

Seyi Akiwowo, Founder & Executive Director of Glitch commented, “We’re excited to work alongside BT to lead the way in both raising awareness of online abuse as well as implement new and sustainable measures to ensure their channels are a safe space for everyone.” 

“It’s alarming how commonplace online abuse has become, especially when looking at statistics regarding women and marginalised communities. That’s why for the last four years we’ve recommended ways everyone including corporations can and must play their part in keeping the online space safe.”

“Our mental health, our wellbeing and the sports we love are being negatively impacted by online abuse. Online abuse has no place in our society and we all must take action. Until everyone, especially social media companies and the government commit to doing so this problem won’t go away.”

“We at Glitch develop and deliver various online safety workshops including how to be an online active bystander. In order to draw the line when it comes to abuse, we encourage you as digital citizens to spot, report and support.”

BT worked in conjunction with Glitch to shape the Draw The Line campaign and AI Abuse Tracker  utilising their expertise in creating safe online spaces and advocating for systematic change.  BT worked with YouGov to conduct a survey of 4000 people on social media abuse. 

For more information on the campaign and for advice on what you can do to help Draw The Line visit Spot. Report. Support.