Politicians are known to dodge difficult questions and deflect the blame whenever possible. However, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan will use his time at a popular US convention to point the finger at himself.

Khan will become the first ever British politician to take to the stage as a keynote speaker at South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas this evening.

Khan will use the opportunity to speak on social media, according to HuffPost (editor Lydia Polgreen will be moderating the Q&A session). He will discuss its influence on society and the problems that internet users face.

Khan will argue that social networks must show a “stronger duty of care”. He feels that these companies haven’t done enough to deal with issues such as cyberbullying and fake news.

To highlight the problem, Khan will read some of the abusive tweets that he has received since his election.

However, he won’t be putting the blame entirely on US tech giants.

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He will also question the lack of urgency that governments have shown in dealing with the emerging digital landscape, both in terms of social media and job loss as a result of automation.

What was said:

Khan is expected to say:

“There’s been a dereliction of duty on the part of politicians and policy-makers to ensure that the rapid growth in technology is utilised and steered in a direction that benefits us all,”

“We simply must do more to protect people online. 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. 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.”

Why it matters:

This is another sign that governments are beginning to crack down on large technology firms.

Germany started imposing multi-million pound fines against tech companies that failed to deal with controversial content in January. Other countries could now follow suit.

Tech giants such as Facebook and Google have risen with the digital world. They continue to grow by acquiring smaller tech firms.

Khan isn’t the only one worried by this. Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the world wide web, is also concerned by this digital monopolisation:

“What was once a rich selection of blogs and websites has been compressed under the powerful weight of a few dominant platforms,”

“The fact that power is concentrated among so few companies has made it possible to weaponise the web at scale. In recent years, we’ve seen conspiracy theories trend on social media platforms, fake Twitter and Facebook accounts stoke social tensions, external actors interfere in elections and criminals steal troves of personal data,”

“A legal or regulatory framework that accounts for social objectives may help ease those tensions.”

Berners-Lee expressed his concerns via an open letter published on the 29th anniversary of the world wide web’s creation.


Khan will be speaking at SXSW on Monday, 12 March. His keynote session will begin at 7pm London time (2pm local). Khan will take to the stage to deliver his speech, before taking part in a Q&A session with HuffPost’s Polgreen.

SXSW is an entertainment conference that attracts the biggest names in film, music, politics and business. More than 6,000 sessions are scheduled to take place.