Ministers must advance legislative efforts to crack down on online hate, argued Angela Rayner and Sadiq Khan, as they said abuse and prejudice had become “monetised”.
Speaking at a Labor conference side event in Liverpool, Khan, the Mayor of London, said the analysis revealed 230,000 racist tweets about him sent since he took office in 2016, and that almost none had been removed.
Rayner, the party’s deputy leader, said the torrent of abuse deterred people from running for office or, in some cases, even speaking out online.
The two said the government needed to move forward with the Online Harms Bill, which has been delayed from the summer and could be heavily overhauled under Liz Truss.
“They tried to self-regulate. They couldn’t do it. It’s time for us to legislate,” Rayner said. “We have to find a way for these organizations to accept responsibility for this space…It’s your blunder – fix it.”
Rayner told the public that the abuse she faced was such that she almost never read comments or tweets online, usually only doing so if her staff found one that was potentially criminal and she needed to. to read it to give the police a victim impact statement.
Much of that often came from damaged people, Rayner explained. She said: “It acts as a catalyst for people who have experienced trauma themselves and are revisiting that trauma.”
Khan said his office flagged 100 of the most offensive tweets about him on Twitter, only four of which were removed.
“In their absence, the government needs to regulate companies like Facebook and Twitter,” he said. “That’s why online damage invoices are so important. Hatred has been monetized.
“What Twitter and others need to do is invest in algorithms or personnel to remove these items as soon as they are in place, and especially once they are flagged. If I violated copyright with a song someone else had written, it would be taken down immediately.
Both politicians condemned some political opponents and parts of the mainstream media for spreading dangerous myths in the first place.
Khan noted that media coverage of the 2016 mayoral election linked him, as a Muslim, to Islamist terrorism, and that his conservative opponent, Zac Goldsmith, sought to scare Londoners of Hindu descent.
“What he’s done is he’s internalized and normalized the biases that exist against people of my faith,” Khan said, adding that some news organizations have followed suit.
“What we’ve realized now is that when you use my name, it’s a good traffic clickbait,” he said. “It’s a run-off tone set by the mainstream media. The reality is that there are reporters who say the wrong things about me and Angela, because they know it attracts readers. It’s good for business.