NCAA Contracts AI Firm To Study Athlete Betting Harassment

December 12, 2023
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The National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) has engaged an artificial intelligence (AI) firm to help monitor online social media abuse and threats toward collegiate athletes related to sports betting.
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The National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) has engaged an artificial intelligence (AI) firm to help monitor online social media abuse and threats toward collegiate athletes related to sports betting.

The governing body for collegiate sports in the United States announced Monday (December 11) that it has engaged Signify Sports, an “ethical data science and artificial intelligence firm” to utilize the company’s “Threat Matrix” AI service.

The service, the NCAA says, will help the association study and respond to abuse and threats directed at athletes, coaches, officials and playoff selection committee members.

The first step will be a pilot program that will go live this month, focusing on X, the former Twitter, as well as Instagram and TikTok and monitor the 2023-24 NCAA championships, including the 2024 NCAA Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournaments.

The service will supposedly allow for monitoring and detection of abuse and threats in 35 languages and analysis of abuse related to sports betting.

In addition, the project will help to develop reporting procedures to notify involved individuals and their teams, as well as law enforcement and social media platforms.

The data collected from the pilot program will be used as a benchmark for future monitoring, the association says.

“This is a first-of-its-kind project in college sports focusing on online abuse and threats, while arming social platforms and law enforcement to take action to protect thousands of student-athletes and all championship participants,” said NCAA president Charlie Baker in a statement.

“This pilot is just the start of much broader online protection measures the NCAA will put in place to guide our longer-term strategy in this crucial space.”

A survey conducted by the NCAA of senior compliance administrators at colleges and universities found that 10 percent of administrators at Division 1 universities were aware of students who had been harassed either online or in person by someone with gambling interests over the previous year.

That number increased to 25 percent at so-called “Autonomy 5” conferences, which include the five most prominent athletic conferences in the U.S. 

The NCAA announced in October that it would ramp up its state and federal lobbying efforts in hopes of securing stronger protections for students in sports-wagering legislation and regulations, including mandatory reporting hotlines to report harassment or coercive behavior, as well as increased penalties for bettors who harass students and mandator education for operators to help identify harassment.

Ohio is one state that has already taken some action after remarks from University of Dayton basketball coach Anthony Grant regarding threats against athletes attracted the attention of regulators and legislators.

The state legislature included language in its most recent state budget bill that allows the Ohio Casino Control Commission to involuntarily exclude persons from sports wagering if they are found to have threatened or harassed college athletes.

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