Social networks are now part of almost everyone’s daily life and have become an essential component of marketing. That’s why brands now put a tremendous amount of resources into communication to maintain their brand awareness, speak with their existing customers or to acquire new clients.

It is thus not surprising to know that pirates have taken up all these digital marketing techniques to maintain or create contact with their existing or potential users, and that they implement real marketing strategies on many channels. That’s where social media comes in. Just like legitimate brands, pirates – both large and small – are indeed using social media to promote themselves and their brand and services. 

A EUIPO study shows that the amount of conversations related to piracy on social media might be close to 35 %. 

In this article we will focus on the particular case of sports – and especially live event- piracy and the one social network that remains the most popular: Facebook. In the second part of our article we will discuss the role of other networks, especially Reddit, Twitter and Discord.

Live sports streaming on social media

The reasons why illegal streaming is growing and spreading on social media are mainly the following

  • The increasing availability of faster bandwidth (for both users and illegal broadcasters) allows access to pirate streams with image quality increasingly close to or even identical to that of legitimate streams.
  • Video is now at the heart of social media platforms’ business models because of its ability to monetize content with ads
  • The social media platforms themselves were designed from the start to spread information quickly – and largely uncontrollably – through an interlocking cloud of hashtags, likes and shares. This system therefore allows for a “snowball” effect – the more users interact with a piece of content (by simply clicking on links or putting likes, and sharing) the more the algorithm will place that content at the top of other users’ news feeds, thus finding a new audience. All publications – legal or not – concerning a sporting event are particularly emotional for Internet users, so interactions are numerous – which allows illegal content to grow all the faster.

The figures for the last football World Cup are not yet fully established and are still being analysed, but the 2018 World Cup was probably the most studied event when it comes to examining the piracy  of live sporting events on social networks. We do know, however, that the numbers for 2022 will have increased – live event sports piracy is indeed on the rise.

As a reminder, here are the figures for 2018 – pending an update article on the latest figures

  • Approximately 20% of viewing occurred online – for 2022 this is estimated to be 30% or more
  • The number of illegal Facebook links almost tripled during the tournament (this trend seems consistent with the one observed in 2022)
  • A total of 40,713 links to illegal broadcasts were detected.
  • Social media played a key role in piracy during the 2018 tournament with a total of 14,615 illegal links for the three most popular social media networks, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram representing 41,371,139 viewers. At this time we do not yet have the data for 2022.
  • The total illegal audience for 2018 is estimated at 100 million. The sobering fact is that in 2014, this audience was estimated at only 20 million, suggesting that the total figure for 2022 will be even higher.


The average Internet user generally uses the most popular social media. Being present on Facebook (which remains the most used social media in the world) and especially on the Marketplace sales platform remains an excellent way to meet the public, which does not necessarily know the unofficial sites, or even to appear to people who aren’t even looking for illegal content, thanks to the algorithmic system that makes ads that are relevant to your real or perceived interests pop in your news feed.

Indeed, despite an alleged ban on advertising for illegal content on the platform, the social does not control at all the ads posted upstream; in order to see the ads removed, the rights holders must absolutely ask Facebook to remove the ads, pages and groups promoting content that infringes their rights.

Moreover, paid advertisements are not controlled either, so we regularly find advertisements for external sites – in particular illegal iptv.

An old transparency report (from 2017) estimated that about 10,000 messages per day were removed from Facebook, which is not a very impressive number. We don’t know the number of daily removals now – more than 5 years after the report.

See you in early March for the rest of our article. In the meantime, if you have content to protect – a movie, a TV show, a music album or a sporting event – don’t hesitate to contact one of our account managers, we’ll be happy to help you, so you can regain control of your income!