Newham councillor targeted by racist trolls welcomes online hate crime police unit

Cllr Seyi Akiwowo

Cllr Seyi Akiwowo - Credit: Seyi Akiwowo

A councillor who was targeted by online trolls has welcomed a new police unit to tackle online hate crime.

Cllr Seyi Akiwowo, who represents Forest Gate North, was threatened and subjected to racial and misogynistic slurs online after a video of her speaking about immigration went viral in February.

She is optimistic that the new police unit, which was announced by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, today, will help combat the issue.

“I was so pleased,” she said. “I think it’s brilliant.

“It’s about encouraging people to come forward and report it, and have confidence something will be done, as it’s currently underreported.”

The online hate crime hub is the first of its kind in the country, aiming to improve the police response by gathering intelligence, improving understanding and testing new methods.

Cllr Akiwowo explained that it was only after speaking to a police officer in the ward she represents, she was advised to visit a police station to report it.

Most Read

She added that officers are still investigating the abuse.

“I’m in a privileged position as a councillor,” she said.

“This new unit will give people the same experience in reporting it that I had.

“It’s also an opportunity for the social media companies, who are in a powerful position.”

The 25-year-old said that she hopes the unit – made up of five dedicated police officers, led by a detective inspector – will also act as a deterrent to those who use hate speech online.

“Things you can’t say offline, you can’t say online either,” she said.

“Hopefully it’ll make people think, I could get a criminal record. It’s about being better online citizens.”

Cllr Akiwowo is also planning on going into schools to educate young people about free speech, hate speech and cyber bullying.

She said of the project: “It’s called Glitch because I see it as a glitch in society that can be fixed.”