Why former footballer Gilberto Silva believes AI can kick out online abuse

World Cup champion’s Striver app aims to provide abuse-free social media

Former Brazil footballer Gilberto Silva says Striver, a football-based social media platform, can help increase civility among fans and players. PA
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Former footballer and start-up co-founder Gilberto Silva is optimistic that artificial intelligence can help make social media a more civil place for football fans and players, especially through his company's app.

“This is more than just a project for us, it’s more than just building a company,” he said of Striver, which bills itself as the world’s first abuse-free social media platform.

“We want to help the dialogue and the conversation. We want to stop the abusive comments and the abusive messages,” he said, referring to the racist, xenophobic and abusive comments that have been hurled at players on social media platforms.

Mr Silva, who was in Brazil’s 2002 World Cup-winning team and played for English Premier League club Arsenal and Greek club Panathinaikos, has been on the receiving end of racist comments from fans during his career.

“It was quite challenging for me to deal with,” he said, adding that social media has sometimes made the problem worse.

Striver, which was launched in November at Qatar’s Web Summit, seeks to create a respectful space for football fans and allows photos and videos to be posted, along with interaction with current and former football players who use the platform.

The app, available on iPhone and Android platforms, resembles the interfaces currently used by TikTok and Instagram.

The app has 40 ambassadors, which consist of current and former players, as well as content creators, said Striver chief executive and co-founder Tim Chase. Former Brazilian player Roberto Carlos is also a co-founder.

Mr Chase said Striver uses AI to stop hateful content getting on to the platform, rather than relying on users to flag such comments before they are taken down.

“We use AI not to remove hateful content, we use it to stop it from ever getting on the platform,” he said. “We’re able to moderate all the content before it goes live.”

The Striver app was developed by Monstarlab, a Japan-based digital consultancy which says its AI-based moderation is powered by Amazon web services such as Rekognition, Comprehend, Transcribe and Elemental MediaConvert.

“These services are designed to identify and eliminate harmful video and text content … it guarantees a wholesome community experience, promoting respectful exchanges and maintaining an environment free from abuse,” Monstarlab said.

Although rare, Striver’s unique implementation of AI has caused occasional “false positive” flags for content that was not offensive, Mr Chase admitted.

“One of the videos, for instance, had an advertisement far in the background which had the words, ‘diablo’, which is Spanish for devil … but that advertisement was 200 feet away and had nothing to do with the video,” he said, adding that the content was eventually allowed on the platform.

“It’s 99.9 per cent effective,” he said, adding that the newest version of the app tells users why content is flagged, and gives the option to challenge the decision with a Striver staff member.

Football fans and players have helped social media platforms grow by leaps and bounds, and in turn, boosted their own brands.

On Instagram, operated by Meta, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have more than a billion followers combined.

The sheer number of users on various platforms has made human content moderation difficult, prompting attempts by platforms to use AI and other methods to ensure a safe environment.

Efforts by companies including Meta and TikTok have been met with relative success, but are far from perfect.

Shortly after Elon Musk purchased X (formerly known as Twitter) in 2022, the platform removed many human content moderators, a move that was met with criticism and concern.

“I'm not going to pick a fight with Elon Musk, he has a couple more pounds on me,” joked Mr Chase. “He seems to love a fight.”

He declined to say how many users the football-based platform has, but expressed confidence that its AI approach to content moderation and preventing abuse was superior to others.

He also clarified what he felt were misconceptions about Striver's approach.

“You can be negative, but you can't be abusive,” Mr Chase said. “We can't stop negativity because that's freedom of speech, but if we can take away user fears about being abused, ridiculed or shamed, then we're making a place where there's true conversations happening.”

Mr Chase cited LinkedIn, the work-based social network, which surpassed one billion users in 2023.

“It's all about the community, and the community on LinkedIn is professional,” he said, referencing the civil atmosphere he'd like to build on Striver.

Striver is in early stages of trying to grow the platform, Mr Chase said, adding that it would like to eventually do advertising and brand deals to raise revenue. There are no plans to charge users for using the app, he said.

“We're going to be very selective about the brands we work with,” he said. Brands associated with gambling, tobacco or alcohol would be avoided.

“Everything at Striver is designed to be in the best interest of the users,” Mr Chase said.

While the app is currently focused on football, Mr Chase didn't rule out having different iterations for other sports, such as cricket and basketball, in the future.

“We've been approached by some cricketers and I've been told they get far more online abuse than footballers,” he said.

Updated: April 04, 2024, 3:41 AM