In Powerful SXSW Moment, London Mayor Sadiq Khan Read Aloud Racist Tweets He'd Received

The online hate must stop, fast.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan was quite clear on his stance about online hate. During his highly anticipated speech at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas on Monday, the first Muslim mayor of London and first British politician to speak at the popular music festival went straight to the source to give examples of the kinds of hatred being spewed online. He read six racist tweets about himself.


"I say kill the mayor of London and you'll be rid of one Muslim terrorist," he read aloud. "I'd pay for someone to execute Sadiq Khan."

Khan admitted to receiving thousands of hate messages every day, a problem that plagues social media. While he pursued a career in politics despite setbacks due to his ethnicity – his family is from Pakistan – and religion, Khan imagined that social media hate must impact others so greatly that it would actually deter them from becoming politicians and exploring other high-profile careers.

"But ask yourself this: What happens when young boys and girls from minority backgrounds see this kind of thing on their timelines or experience this themselves?" Khan said.

According to the 47-year-old mayor, the solutions to combating this hate are quite simple. Sites like Facebook and Twitter must show "a stronger duty of care" to "to protect people online" or they face sanctions similar to those already being enforced in Germany where social media sites are given 24 hours to decide whether something is hate speech. Per The Guardian, the countries' new rules as of January also include hefty fines for failure to remove hate speech, fake news and illegal material fast enough.

"This isn't about depriving people of free speech," Khan said. "This is about things that divide our community."   

But the issue of online hate is not only something for the websites to address and solve, politicians are also responsible: "There's been a dereliction of duty on the part of politicians and policymakers to ensure that the rapid growth in technology is utilized and steered in a direction that benefits us all."

Together, politicians, policymakers and social media sites can identify better ways to stop hate from spreading, he explained.

"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," Khan said. "With the skills and resources these companies have at their disposal – I believe it's possible to go further and faster."  

Hear more from Mayor Sadiq Khan here:

Cover image via  Martin Hoscik /


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