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Politicians need to be more involved in tech, says Sadiq Khan

Flying the flag for the UK capital at the SXSW festival in Texas, London mayor Sadiq Khan says government should “do more” for technology, as well as mitigate the risks that come with it, and calls on social media firms to take responsibility for hate speech on their platforms

London mayor Sadiq Khan will call on politicians to take a more active part in the technology revolution, in order to harness opportunities and mitigate risks.

Due to deliver a keynote speech at the South by Southwest (SXSW) conference in Austin, Texas, today (12 March), the mayor will criticise politicians for being too passive when it comes to technology.

“The onus for change should not just be on tech companies and innovators. One of the biggest problems over the last few years is that politicians and governments have been passive – sitting on their hands – while the tech revolution has happened around them,” he will say. 

“There’s been a failure to ensure that our economies and our regulatory structures are prepared and relevant. It must ultimately fall to government – working with tech businesses and leaders – to ensure that this revolution is not detrimental to our long-term progress. 

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

Khan will also call on social media companies such as Twitter and Facebook to take more responsibility for what is published on their platforms, and the social impact it can have. 

“There are growing concerns about the way some of the biggest companies on the planet are impacting our lives and the overall wellbeing of our societies. In some cases, these new platforms have been used to exacerbate, fuel and deepen the divisions within our communities,” he will say, citing their use in influencing elections and referendums, and as a conduit for spreading fake news, online abuse and the messages of terrorist organisations.

“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,” he will tell the conference. 

“We need to see a stronger duty of care so that social media platforms can live up to their promise to be places that connect, unify and democratise the sharing of information – and be places where everyone feels welcome and valued”
Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London

“What we need to see is a stronger duty of care so that social media platforms can live up to their promise to be places that connect, unify and democratise the sharing of information – and be places where everyone feels welcome and valued.”

Facebook recently announced it was offering grants of up to $100,000 to researchers at universities, non-profit organisations and non-governmental organisations to improve security online. 

Flying the flag for London at the event, Khan will showcase the work being done in the UK’s capital on technology and data, including setting up an online hate crime hub. 

In December 2017, Khan published his draft economic development strategy. The strategy outlines a series of measures to grow digital capability and technologies across London.

These include a Civic Innovation Challenge, which will be open to small and medium-sized tech companies that want to address issues such as inequality, climate change and the ageing population.

“We’re looking at London’s strengths in AI [artificial intelligence] and automation, finding the best ways to take advantage of the opportunities it could bring, whilst also investing in education to ensure Londoners have the digital skills they need for the jobs of tomorrow,” Khan will say.

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