Sadiq Khan: YouTube and Google must do more to crack down on videos that encourage knife crime

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Sadiq Khan today demanded that internet giant YouTube take a tougher stance against videos that encourage knife crime.

The Mayor called on the American firm and other online platforms to remove the videos – and prevent them from reappearing.

He suggested YouTube’s parent company Google should lead the crackdown on content which glamorises gang violence – warning lives could depend on it.

Some videos even carry adverts for businesses and major organisations such as the BBC – with most unaware their ads are appearing on the violent content. 

Scotland Yard, which backed Mr Khan’s call, fears that some of the most violent videos are fuelling soaring knife crime in the capital.

Knife crime in London has increased by 24 per cent over the year to April 2016, with gun crime going up 42 per cent.

Senior officers believe social media is often misused to fuel violence between gangs and promote the use of weapons such as “zombie” knives.

The Met’s Operation Domain has been tackling violent online content since September 2015 and videos have successfully been used in prosecutions.

Marcel Addai was murdered in 2015 during a feud over social media taunts and music videos

These include the jailing of four men for the murder of 18-year-old Londoner Marcel Addai in September 2015 during a feud over social media taunts and music videos.

Last year three gang members – Winston White, 22, Akyrie Palmer, 21, and Mark Oduro, 20 – who bragged on YouTube about being armed with guns were jailed for firearms offences for more than 50 years .

Scotland Yard has reported four violent videos found on YouTube since December but they have yet to be removed. 

The films depict gang members threatening and goading rival gangs, describing how they would murder them, making shooting hand signs and waving a “Rambo” knife to a soundtrack of violent rap.

The videos have been viewed more than 356,000 times between them yet the internet giant has so far failed to act, claiming that no rules have been broken.

YouTube’s own rules claim that “threats, harassment, intimidation (and) inciting others to commit violent acts… are taken very seriously”.

Google has said that it would not place adverts on videos with fewer than 10,000 views in an attempt to get rid of extremist content.

But the four videos identified by the Met all have had at least double, and in one case over 20 times as many views, with one displaying adverts for an event for the BBC’s Great British Sewing Bee and another for watchmaker Christopher Ward.

Companies and organisations are usually unaware that their advertising is being used in this way.

Mr Khan now wants stricter regulations put in place and for online platforms to act more quickly to take down violent or graphic content.

He told the Standard: “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’s Office for Policing and Crime is already working with YouTube and Google to tackle online hate crime and wants to expand this work to cover content which promotes knife crime. 

The Met’s DCI Mike West said: “Operation Domain focuses on the removal of content from the internet that incites violence, but is also used as an intelligence gathering tool to evidence gang associations.

“We only ask for videos to be removed which we believe raise the risk of violence. We know music is also a means to divert young people away from gangs, and we do not wish to compromise their freedoms of expression.

“Google and YouTube have taken down videos after we have raised concerns on a number of occasions and we welcome any efforts to ensure videos that incite violence are removed from the internet as quickly as possible.”

Claire Hubberstey, chief executive of charity Safer London, added: “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.”

A YouTube spokeswoman said: “While YouTube is a platform for free and creative expression, we strictly prohibit videos that are abusive or that promote violence and we have policy specialists that speak multiple languages based in counties and timezones around the world to review and remove flagged content that breaks our rules. 

“We work closely with organisations like the Metropolitan police to understand local context and specifically, so that we can understand where artistic expression escalates into real threats.

“We’re committed to continuing and improving our work on this issue and making YouTube a hostile space for those who seek to do harm.”

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