Jewish representatives in the UK have welcomed the launch of a new Scotland Yard police unit specifically tasked with investigating online hate crime on sites such as Twitter and Facebook.

The five-strong unit, launched by London Mayor Sadiq Khan, was applauded by the Community Security Trust (CST) and Tell MAMA, which records hate crime against Muslims.

The latest CST figures show that about a fifth of recorded instances of anti-Semitism are online.

The CST is a member of the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) unit so has “helped design the hub and shape its work”.

This week, CST director Mark Gardner said: “We were pleased to attend the launch of the new hate crime hub. We look forward to working with the unit, in the hope that it will improve both policing and the service given to victims of hate crime.”

The £1.7 million unit will aim to gather intelligence on abusers, to pass to police forces, and to improve the support given to victims of online abuse.

Some high-profile figures, such as Brexit legal campaigner Gina Miller and Conservative peer Lord Michael Heseltine, say they have received death threats in the past year.

“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,” said Khan.

“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.”