Sadiq Khan, the first Muslim mayor of London and of a European capital city, read aloud hateful tweets he receives every day while speaking at the South by Southwest Conference & Festivals in Austin, Texas.
“Kill the Mayor of London and you will be rid of one Muslim terrorist,” one post read.
While reading the tweets, Khan said he was not attempting to depict himself as a victim. Instead, he was trying to draw attention to the abuse that minorities often receive on social media.
"What happens when young boys and girls from minority backgrounds see this kind of thing on their timelines or experience it themselves," he asked.
During his speech, Khan highlighted the complexities of regulating speech on social media platforms while also allowing free speech. He espoused greater monitoring to eliminate hateful online messages, saying he was glad platforms were developing ways to make hate speech removal “quicker and more effective.”
“This isn’t about depriving people of free speech — this is about inciting hatred,” Khan said. “This is about things that divide our community.”
Khan’s statements offer a powerful symbol of solidarity to those who receive hateful messages online. By publicizing the issue, the mayor has raised awareness of the global spread of social media hate speech.
Speaking in the U.S., Khan drew attention to the fact that Germany has begun to punish platforms that don’t remove hate speech promptly, indicating that some countries have adopted more stringent solutions to reduce online vitriol than those promoted by the U.S. government.