Online hate crime is to be tackled by a new police unit, launched today by the Mayor of London.

The new Online Hate Crime Hub, led by a detective inspector and made up of five officers, will work with community groups and specialists to improve police responses to abuse on social media sites.

Representatives from charities, the Crown Prosecution service and social media sites joined Mayor Sadiq Khan to launch the hub at the inaugural Online Hate Crime Summit at City Hall today.

Disability and disfigurement rights campaigner Victoria Wright, who spoke at the summit, said: “As a woman with a severe facial disfigurement, I’ve often found myself subjected to horrendous online abuse because of my disability.

“It has, at times, been so awful that I’ve been left fearful for my physical safety too, and I know that I’m not alone in this experience.

“It’s vital that those of us who are victims of online hate crime receive a robust response from the police as well as being better supported by social media companies."

The hub will cost £1,730,726 over two years, of which £452,756 has been provided by the Home Office Police Innovation Fund.

Discussions are also underway between the Mayor’s office, charity Stop Hate UK and social media representatives to develop appropriate online sanctions for those committing these crimes when victims have been significantly harmed.

Mayor Sadiq Khan, said: “We know hate crime has a huge impact on those who experience it, and that online hate, where abusers mistakenly believe they are hidden behind a screen, can be particularly damaging.

“My approach is clear: there must be zero tolerance of this behaviour, and we are working to improve protection for victims by taking advice from anti-hate organisations, who will examine whether something is actively causing harm and should be removed."

The hub is also designed to help aid investigations through gathering intelligence online and testing methods of investigation.

Between two and five percent of hate crimes reported to the Met are online, though the Jewish organisation Community Security Trust cite 20 percent, while charity Tell MAMA estimated that 70 percent of the reports of Islamophobia they receive are online.