On Friday, September 3, Stephens lost her match against Angelique Kerber in the third round of the US Open, CNN reports. Initially addressing the loss with a note of social media positivity, Stephens later reported that she had received more than 2,000 negative messages, Buzzfeed reports.
Stephens chose to share screenshots of some of the comments she received. Those Instagram Stories have since expired, but CNN reports that some messages included threats of violence. Others threats and messages were racist and sexual in nature, Reuters reported.
“It’s so hard to read messages like these, but I’ll post a few so you guys can see what it’s like after a loss,” she had written.
In additional stories posted after the loss, she wrote, “This isn’t talked about enough, but it really freaking sucks… I’m happy to have people in my corner who support me. I’m choosing positive vibes over negative ones…I choose to show you guys happiness on here, but it’s not always smiles and roses.”
On Sunday, September 5, Stephens wrote in an Instagram Story that she hoped the conversation surrounding the public’s treatment of athletes and public figures continued. However, since last posting of the social media abuse, she had received even more notes of support, adding, “Thank you so much for all the love and support. Your messages are so kind and thoughtful. I’m so grateful for my family, friends, and fans.”
In a statement to CNN, a company spokesperson for Facebook called the messages “abhorrent.” The company confirmed it was reviewing accounts flagged for making abusive remarks against Stephens.
“No one should have to experience racist abuse anywhere, and sending it on Instagram is against our rules. In addition to our work to remove comments and accounts that repeatedly break our rules, there are safety features available, including Comment Filters and Message Controls, which can mean no one has to see this type of abuse. No single thing will fix this challenge overnight but we’re committed to the work to keep our community safe from abuse,” the spokesperson said.
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