Racist abuse of Sadiq Khan shot up 2,000% after Trump election as Musk vows to unban him

11 May 2022, 06:38 | Updated: 11 May 2022, 09:53

By Will Taylor and Rachael Venables

Sadiq Khan has revealed he endured more than 200,000 explicitly racist or racialised social media messages since his election as London mayor – as "free speech absolutist" Elon Musk takes over Twitter.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

The richest man in the world has announced Donald Trump would no longer be banned from the platform after he was booted off following the US Capitol riots that followed his election defeat.

Mr Khan, speaking to LBC's Rachael Venables on his visit to the US, tied the abuse to Mr Trump's tumultuous time as president – a period that critics of Mr Trump say caused racial division.

The mayor, who was visiting students at Stanford University in California, said: "I'm somebody who believes passionately about freedom of speech but you can't escape the fact the first year when Donald Trump was president, the racist abuse I received increased by almost 2,000%.

"It is a fact the year when he stopped being president, and he was taken off Twitter, it shot down hugely."

Greater London Authority figures show racist abuse at Mr Khan shot up by 1,892% in 2016, his first year as mayor and the same year Mr Trump was elected.

Sadiq Khan said racist abuse shot up nearly 2,000% the same year Trump took the White House
Sadiq Khan said racist abuse shot up nearly 2,000% the same year Trump took the White House. Picture: Alamy

That increased a further 94% in 2017, fell by 35% in 2018, then shot up again by 59% in 2019.

After that, it declined each year, plummeting by 75% in 2020, then 40% in 2021, as Mr Trump left the White House.

He was later banned from Twitter – his favourite social media platform until then – after his supporters rioted at the US Capitol building in January 2021.

Read more: Major baseball events to be held in London in drive to grow the game in UK

He had made an incendiary speech after he failed to get his election defeat to Joe Biden overturned, making baseless claims about the vote.

Notably, it has been revealed Mr Khan suffered more racist abuse from US users than British ones in 2016 and 2017.

Elon Musk has described himself as a free speech absolutist
Elon Musk has described himself as a free speech absolutist. Picture: Alamy

The abuse rose from 9% of the content coming from across the Atlantic to 47% in 2016. That level stayed at 47% in 2017 and 33% in 2018.

The amount of racist abuse coming from the US only fell to levels seen before Mr Trump's election in his final full year at the White House, in 2020.

Insults hurled at the mayor included linking him to terrorist atrocities like the Manchester Arena bombing and London Bridge attacks, and falsely tried to tie him to Muslim grooming gangs, jihadis and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Read more: Amir Khan says he 'doesn't feel safe in London' and slams Mayor after £72k watch mugging

Donald Trump was a prominent Twitter user before he was booted off
Donald Trump was a prominent Twitter user before he was booted off. Picture: Alamy

Speaking virtually at the Financial Times Future of the Car Summit on Tuesday, Tesla owner Mr Musk said: "I would reverse the permanent ban but I don't own Twitter yet so this is not a thing that will definitely happen."

The businessman, who is worth some $240bn, is awaiting regulatory approval for his $44bn (£34.5bn) takeover of Twitter.

He added: "Permanent bans should be extremely rare and really reserved for accounts that are bots or spam, scam accounts. I do think it was not correct to ban Donald Trump."