The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has launched a hashtag campaign to encourage action against hate speech. He launched the #endthehate campaign through a video on his personal and mayoral Twitter feed[1].

In the video, Sadiq Khan reads out tweets making fun of his appearance, before suddenly moving onto the Islamophobic tweets he receives, such as “Muslims have no dignity. I wish Sadiq Khan would just blow himself up like they all do. He might get his 12 virgins” and “if you use a knife to mutilate your daughter’s vagina will the full force of the law be brought down on you? Asking for a Muslim”[2].

He then says, “I don’t read this out to be portrayed as a victim, but I worry about what happens when young boys and girls from minority backgrounds see this kind of thing on their social media timelines or experience it themselves. And what about young girls and women who have been driven from these platforms reversing our long fight for gender equality?

“Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have brought huge benefits to society. But also, significant challenges. We’ve already seen evidence of elections and referendums being influenced. A rise in extreme propaganda and online abuse, misogyny and religious hatred. Fake news, spreading disinformation. Algorithms blinkering us from different points of view and pushing people to extremes. And terrorists and far right groups using social media to not only inspire but to radicalise and brainwash others.

“All of this dividing us rather than uniting us. It’s on all of us to tackle this problem. Social media companies, governments, politicians and media, and you. Let’s work together to end this hate.”[3]

In his keynote speech at the South by South West conference (SXSW 2018) in Austin, Texas on Monday, Khan gave the same message, reading more tweets addressing the online racist abuse he receives, and calling on Facebook and Twitter to crack down on hate speech[4].

He said, “Social media platforms already have a legal obligation to remove content that breaks local laws. But this is not always happening, or happening quickly enough. Facebook, Twitter and other platforms are finally starting to react to the criticisms and are developing technology to make sure the reporting process becomes quicker and more effective. And I welcome this. But with the skills and resources these companies have at their disposal, I believe it’s possible to go further and faster. What we need to see is a stronger duty of care so that social media platforms can live up to their promises to be places that connect, unify and democratise the sharing of information, and be places where everyone feels welcome and valued”[5].

Khan’s call for social media companies to do more to combat hate speech comes after the UK counter-terror chief warned they must do more to combat online extremist content, which can led to ‘remote radicalisation’.

The #endthehate campaign has received widespread attention on Twitter, with many supporting it, while a few users have criticised it for threatening free speech. However, this comment is frequently met by the response “hate speech is not free speech”.

[1] Khan, 2018.

[2] Khan, 2018.

[3] Khan, 2018.

[4] Yeung, 2018.

[5] Channel 4 News, 2018.

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Sources

Channel 4 News. (2018) Tweet. [online] 13 March. https://twitter.com/Channel4News/status/973571761462706176. [Accessed 14 March 2018].

Khan, S. (2018) Tweet. [online] 12 March. https://twitter.com/SadiqKhan/status/973290039860920321. [Accessed 14 March 2018].

Yeung, V. (2018) ‘Sadiq Khan addresses Form 696, racism and protecting music venues at SXSW’. [online] 13 March. https://crackmagazine.net/2018/03/sadiq-khan-addresses-form-696-racism-and-music-venues-at-sxsw/. [Accessed 14 March 2018].