Sadiq Khan wants Google meeting to tackle ‘inflammatory’ gang videos

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has called on Google to take a tougher stance on violent videos that appear on YouTube after it refused to take down footage reported by the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS).

Aug 7, 2017

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has called on Google to take a tougher stance on violent videos that appear on YouTube after it refused to take down footage reported by the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS). The four videos – reported in December – depict gang members threatening rival gangs, describing how they would kill them, and waving a Rambo-style knife at the camera with rap music in the background. Mr Khan believes videos such as these are a “shocking example of the glamorisation of gang culture”, and linked them to the recent increase in knife crime. Altogether, the videos have accumulated more than 356,000 views, and despite YouTube’s guidelines stating that “threats, harassment, intimidation [and] inciting others to commit violent acts… are taken very seriously”, the site said no breach had taken place. The Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime is already working with Google to tackle online hate crime on YouTube, but Mr Khan is now seeking to meet with the global organisation to expand this work to tackle content that glorifies knife crime. Mr 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.” According to MPS figures, gun and knife crime increased by 42 per cent and 24 per cent respectively between 2014/15 and 2015/16, and Mr Khan has focused on this in his Police and Crime plan. In June, he launched a £7 million knife crime strategy in which every school was offered a “metal detecting knife wand”, and the MPS has been receiving more support to use targeted, intelligence-led stop and search. Claire Hubberstey, chief executive of Safer London, 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.” A YouTube spokesperson added: “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 time zones around the world to review and remove flagged content that breaks our rules. “We work closely with organisations like the MPS 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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