High-profile Australian athletes will be able to block trolls from social media outlet Instagram in a bid to stamp out racist and gambling-related abuse.
The decision was announced by the social media giant on Wednesday, which enables players to filter out unwanted abusive messages.
Approximately a month earlier, Sydney player Josh Morris was labelled a 'dog c***' by a social media user on Instagram, who threatened to wait for him outside Campbelltown Stadium.
With that flog threatening Josh Morris on Instagram, maybe they should just ban gambling on the NRL. They banned alcohol and cigarette sponsorship from the game, but gambling can make lives just as bad. #BanGambling
— Triff81 (@triff81) March 22, 2021
Instagram's newest tool will automatically filter message requests that contain offensive words, phrases and emojis as well as blocking a user and any other accounts they could create.
Rugby League Players' Association chief Clint Newton couldn't speak highly enough of the pending change for social media.
"We welcome and applaud these changes announced by Instagram," he said, per The Sydney Morning Herald.
"These critical steps must continue to be taken by social media platforms to protect the community and our members from the abuse they can be subjected to online.
"While these are positive moves... filtering out the abuse does not change the fact that this kind of behaviour is still rife in our game and the broader community and we must all continue to advocate for consistent and unrelenting change.
"We will continue to support our members in standing up against online abuse and advocate for an increased level of accountability for the perpetrators of such behaviour."
Abuse of athletes via social media - both in the NRL and in other codes in Australia - has been more prominent over the past 12 months.
South Sydney's Latrell Mitchell was a target of racial vitriol last season, whilst Melbourne pair Josh Addo-Carr and Ryan Papenhuyzen have been abused over losing bets.
Latrell Mitchell cops plenty. No sports are totally immune to racism unfortunately. AFL has improved but nowhere near enough despite big effort. https://t.co/fnLQqaJLmt
— Lindsay (@KakLinds) June 24, 2020
AFL Australia's executive general manager of inclusion and social policy Tanya Hosch says that there is still work to be done.
"These new tools will make a significant difference in protecting our players and ensuring that their experience on Instagram is a positive one, whether that's connecting with their fans or sharing the great things about the sport," she said.
"This is also a valuable update in supporting the safety and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players, and any other person who faces discrimination and hate speech, to have a safer and more positive experience online."