London's mayor bashes free speech

Wednesday, 14 Mar, 2018

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has shared some of the racial abuse he is subjected to on a daily basis online as he demanded social media firms take action to tackle hate speech.

Khan presides over the most successful tech hub in Europe, so he can't afford to alienate tech companies entirely.

Yesterday, the mayor of London used a speech in the United States to read out six abusive tweets he's received over the years and accused the government of a "dereliction of duty" for allowing big technology companies to be unregulated. He first talked about how he was shocked by the amount of hipsters here in Austin, Texas, followed by a comment that he's excited to be on nearly the same time zone as President Donald Trump. "In some cases, these new platforms have been used to exacerbate, fuel and deepen the divisions within our communities". If they don't, they must face government-imposed fines.

He will say that Facebook, Twitter, and Google can remove offensive content and misinformation faster.

"What we need to see is a stronger duty of care so that social media platforms can live up to their promise to be places that connect, unify and democratise the sharing of information - and be places where everyone feels welcome and valued", Khan continued.

He goes on to talk about women being driven from social media platforms, election influencing and the spread of fake news and extreme views, asking people to use the hashtag #EndTheHate to spread awareness.

He said that if these sites don't approach this problem in a serious matter, they might end up getting regulated by governments everywhere, adding Germany as an example. German police are already investigating far-right politician Beatrix von Storch after she described Muslims as "barbarians" on Facebook and Twitter. The company is still operational in the city while it fights a legal battle with London's transport regulator.

Kahn said he expects Londoners to pressure their representatives to create a similar rule.

Not everything is about blame.

He will say: "Rather than blaming companies for innovating ahead of regulation, politicians must fix things when the regulation is out-of-date".

Mr Khan accused politicians and governments of "sitting on their hands while the tech revolution has happened around them". At the same time, though, he believes that governments shouldn't slow down innovation. And we shouldn't. It should be how we mitigate against the potentially negative impacts of disruption.

"We simply must do more to protect people online".