Mayor demands tougher stance from internet giants on videos encouraging knife crime

  • Four violent videos reported by Met but not removed from YouTube

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has called on YouTube and its parent company Google to crack down on online videos that encourage gang violence and knife crime, urging the internet giants and all online platforms to do more to remove this content and prevent it reappearing.

YouTube has refused to take down four violent videos reported to them by the Metropolitan Police since December. The videos depict gang members threatening and goading rival gangs, describing how they would murder them, making shooting hand signals and waving a Rambo knife to a soundtrack of violent rap.

Collectively, the videos have been viewed more than 356,000 times. Despite YouTube’s own rules stating that ‘threats, harassment, intimidation (and) inciting others to commit violent acts…are taken very seriously’ and the Met providing detailed context, the site claimed no breach had taken place.

The Mayor believes online platforms must take a tougher stance on gang and knife-related videos, put stricter rules in place and act quickly to take down content that violates them.

Gun and knife crime in the capital have increased by 42 per cent and 24 per cent respectively over the last year*, with social media and the internet often misused to fuel violence between gangs and glamorise the use of weapons such as zombie knives.

The Mayor’s Office for Policing And Crime (MOPAC) is already working with YouTube and Google to tackle online hate crime and is seeking a meeting to expand this work to tackle concerns around content which glorifies knife crime.

Sadiq Khan has made tackling serious youth violence a core priority in his Police and Crime Plan, launching a comprehensive Knife Crime Strategy in June, in which he pledged to encourage the Law Commission to review legislation on offensive online communications.

He also committed to work with social media organisations to ensure content which glorifies knife crime is quickly taken down and to put an end to the profits made from advertising linked to the videos. Google previously stated that it would not place adverts on videos that have fewer than 10,000 views in an attempt to discard extremist content. But all four videos reported by the Met have at least double, and in one case over 20 times this many views, with one displaying advertisements from the Great British Sewing Bee and watchmaker Christopher Ward. These companies often have no idea their advertising is being used in this way.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “Every death on the streets of London is an utter tragedy, and I am deeply concerned about the rise in knife crime across the capital. Social media and the internet can be used to inflame tensions and escalate violence quicker than ever before, and these videos are a shocking example of the glamorisation of gang culture.

“Internet giants have policies in place around violent content, but they do not go far enough. Google, YouTube and other platforms have a responsibility to the millions of young people using their sites every day, and it is vital that they toughen up their guidelines, remove breaches immediately and work with partners to help ensure such horrific videos do not reappear. Lives could depend on it.”

The Mayor has also invested an additional £625,000 for knife and gang crime projects, taking total spending to £7million. These measures include a specialist team of 80 Met police officers, £250,000 seed-funding for communities and more targeted, intelligence-led stop and search.

In addition, the Met’s Operation Sceptre regularly targets knife-crime hotspots and known offenders, and Operation Domain has been tackling violent online content since September 2015. Through this work, videos have successfully been used in prosecutions, including the jailing of four men for the murder of 18 year-old Londoner Marcel Addai in September 2015 and three men for firearms offences in December 2016.

CEO of Safer London, Claire Hubberstey said: “There are some highly dangerous, widely viewed films online that pose a serious threat to young people, both glorifying violence and intimidation and posing a significant risk to those who appear in them.  We know that many of the participants are forced to appear in these videos and are often unaware of the grave danger they are in once they are posted. Such content contributes to young people feeling unsafe and increases the likelihood of them arming themselves as a result. It is essential that large corporations identify their role in safeguarding young people and commit to strict guidelines around their online content to help reduce this risk.”

Sarah Hitchings



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