Newham councillor Seyi Akiwowo told she should die from a STD by racist trolls on Twitter
PUBLISHED: 17:52 02 February 2017 | UPDATED: 18:07 02 February 2017
A Newham councillor has voiced her shock at becoming the target of hundreds of racist internet trolls from across Europe and America.
Seyi Akiwowo, who represents Forest Gate North Ward, reported a wave of online derogatory comments to police yesterday after a video of her speaking about immigration at the European Parliament went viral.
The 25-year-old has been threatened and subjected to hundreds of racial and misogynistic slurs, including the n-word, since the video was shared by a prominent tweeter at 11.45am on Tuesday.
“People said I should get lynched, that an STD should kill me,” Cllr Akiwowo told the Recorder.
“I have received disgusting comments – but some lovely people have said encouraging and amazing things.”
She added: “To make it clear, it is not about silencing people or censorship.
“It is a step too far when it is racial hate, threats and slurs. They are doing it to make me angry.”
The online abuse began after writer Danielle Abena Scott-Haughton, known on Twitter as Daniellè DASH, shared a video of Ms Akiwowo.
In it, she praised the Newham councillor’s response to audience members at the European Youth Hearings who booed her speech on how countries should deal with the after-effects of colonisation.
Attaching a link to the video, Ms Scott-Haughton tweeted: “Awesome @seyiakiwowo at the European Youth Event in the European Parliament. Check out the boos and her flawless response. Perfect. Timely.”
The video has since been liked 1,000 and retweeted 768 times, receiving a large number of positive comments.
However, both women began to receive hate messages soon after and things “went a bit weird about 4-5pm” according to Cllr Akiwowo.
“I went to sleep and woke up to 60 emails to 100 YouTube messages,” she said.
Despite positive messages, others coming from the UK, America and European right-wing group members were not.
“We have assumed that it is someone motivating people to come and find these videos,” said Ms Akiwowo.
The Newham-born educator eventually went to Forest Gate police station.
“Obviously as a councillor my information is public,” she said. “I do have it in the back of my mind what happened to Jo Cox last year.”
A spokewoman for the Met confirmed police had “received an allegation of racially aggravated harassment against a woman – related to messages sent to the woman on social media. No arrests have been made. Enquiries are ongoing”.
Ms Akiwowo said she belives it is “a reponsibility” of social media sites such as Twitter and YouTube “to make sure it is a safe place” for users.
“I am having to read it all over and over again to report each comment.”
She added: “It is not just about me though. It is about highlighting what is going on, it is about everyone.
“So I try to get it into perspective. It is about standing up to the bullies.”
Ms Scott-Haughton said: “Twitter, time and time again has failed to protect black women from these racists who hide behind anonymity knowing their views are violent and evil and will never be held accountable for their criminal acts.
Mayor Sir Robin Wales said he welcomed the police investigation into this “horrible crime”.
He said: “Newham Council condemns in the strongest possible terms the unacceptable racially aggravated abuse directed at Councillor Seyi Akiwowo today.
“While politicians are public figures, we are also human beings, and this kind of hate crime has no place in society.
“Free speech is central to our values, but in the hands of hate peddlers, it becomes a weapon. Newham stands united against hate whether directed at our councillors, our staff or our residents.
A spokeswoman for YouTube said: “Hate speech has no place on the YouTube platform and we remove hateful content and comments when they’re flagged to us.”
People can flag inappropriate comments individually when logged in by clicking on the three dots next to the comment or through youtube.com/reportabuse.
A spokesman for Twitter said the company does not comment on individual accounts “for privacy and security reasons” but more information can be found under its hateful conduct policy.
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