In what seems to be one of the biggest challenges the AFL faces, the goal to stop racial slurs towards their players both off the field and online isn’t seeming to be an easy feat.

The AFL have implemented rule changes, have an anti-vilification code and more recently have done work with the e-safety commissioner to tackle online hate, but yet the abuse hasn’t stopped.

AFL social policy and inclusion manager Tanya Hosch said that although anonymous social media accounts give people power to post abusive things online, there have also been people doing it under their own names.

“Certainly, in recent weeks, I’ve even seen people put their name to some pretty racist abuse online towards some of the AFL players,” she said.

“So there are people using that opportunity to be anonymous, but there’s also people who don’t even bother to do that.

“They’re quite comfortable to put their name to these things.”

AFL social policy and inclusion manager Tanya Hosch. Photo Supplied.

Following Sunday’s elimination final, Essendon said they had reported and removed a racial comment made on their Facebook page towards forward Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti,  who didn’t play.

“The club has since identified the individual, an alleged supporter of Essendon, who posted the comment. The club has attempted to contact the individual on several occasions on Monday morning and the individual has ignored our attempts to discuss the matter,” they said in a statement.

“He is not a member of the club … Vilification, racial or otherwise, has absolutely no place in our society. This must stop now, and it starts with all of us in calling out this vile behaviour.

“The Essendon Football Club stands in total solidarity with McDonald-Tipungwuti and will continue its fight against racism.”

McDonald-Tipungwuti has also addressed the comments on his socials.

“As a society we should never define anyone by the colour of their skin, religion, race, culture or ability.”

“In Australia we are one people and a diverse community that should be galvanising together instead of ripping each other apart.

“My family and I like many others are separated by distance and COVID restrictions which has made this year very difficult for all. We all feel isolated and we should be using our words to unite us in the face of adversity.”

A Facebook spokesperson said that they have implemented new features to protect the Instagram community from hate speech and abuse.

Head of Policy for Facebook Australia Mia Garlick said the features are designed to safeguard everyone in the community “whether you’re an athlete, a creator or a high school student.”

“We have a responsibility to make sure everyone feels safe when they come to Instagram. The new features we’re launching are the next step in our ongoing work to combat racism and hate speech across our platform,” she said.

“We’re committed to continuing this work with experts, sports leagues, governments and safety partners to root out hate both online and offline, but we hope these new features will better protect everyone in our community from seeing abusive content in the first place.”

The new features include the global launch of Limits, which combats with abusive comments or DMs (direct messages) and stronger warnings for people who try to post potentially offensive comments.

Facebook and Instagram Limits. Photo Supplied Facebook.

Tanya Hosch said that she believes with these new features Facebook is taking further steps to combat racism and abuse for AFL players.

“It’s encouraging to see they are listening to sports leagues including the AFL, and our partnership is shaping a more positive Instagram experience for everyone,” she said.

“This is an especially important step forward in the protection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players, and other players of colour, and women in our code who endure a disproportionate amount of abuse in online and offline spaces.”

“There is more work to be done, and we’ll continue working with Facebook in their commitment to make their platforms safe for everyone.”

By Teisha Cloos