Social media censor announced to tackle gang-related online content
The Home Secretary Sajid Javid has announced £1.38 million to strengthen the police's response to violent and gang-related online content.
Funding from the government's £40 million Serious Violence Strategy will be used to create a 20-strong team of police staff and officers tasked with disrupting and removing overt and covert gang-related online content.
The social media censor will proactively flag illegal and harmful online content for social media companies to take down. Hosted by the Metropolitan Police, the new capability will also prevent violence on our streets by identifying gang-related
messages generating the most risk and violence.
The move follows the Serious Violence Taskforce chaired by the Home Secretary urging social media companies to do more to take down these videos. The Home Secretary invited representatives from Facebook and Google to Monday's meeting to explain
the preventative action they are already taking against gang material hosted on their platforms.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid said:
Street gangs are increasingly using social media as a platform to incite violence, taunt each other and promote crime.
This is a major concern and I want companies such as Facebook and Google to do more.
We are taking urgent action and the new social media hub will improve the police's ability to identify and remove this dangerous content.
Duncan Ball, Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service and National Policing lead for Gangs, said:
Police forces across the country are committed to doing everything we can to tackle violent crime and the impact that it has on our communities. Through this funding we can develop a team that is a centre of expertise and excellence that will
target violent gangs and those plotting and encouraging violence online.
By working together with social media companies we will ensure that online material that glamourises murder, lures young people into a dangerous, violent life of crime, and encourages violence is quickly dealt with to cut off this outlet for
gangs and criminals.
Looking to the future we aim to develop a world class capability that will tackle the type of dangerous social media activity that promotes or encourages serious violence.
It is already an offence to incite, assist, or encourage violence online and the Home Office is focused towards building on the relationships made with social media providers to identify where we can take action relevant to tackling serious
Comment: Making music videos is not a criminal activity -- no matter what genre
West London music group 1011 has recently been banned from recording or performing music without police permission.
On June 15, the Metropolitan police issued the group, which has been the subject of a two-year police investigation, with a Criminal Behaviour Order .
For the next three years, five members of the group -- which creates and performs a UK version of drill, a genre of hip-hop that emerged from Chicago -- must give 24 hours notice of the release of any music video, and 48 hours notice of any live
performance. They are also banned from attending Notting Hill Carnival and wearing balaclavas.
This is a legally unprecedented move, but it is not without context. A recent Amnesty UK report on the Metropolitan Police Gangs Matrix -- a risk assessment tool that links individuals to gang related crime -- stated that:
The sharing of YouTube videos and other social media activity are used as potential criteria for adding names to the Matrix, with grime music videos featuring gang names or signs considered a particular possible indicator of likely gang
Furthermore, recent research indicates that almost 90% of those on the Matrix are black or ethnic minority.
For young people who make music, video is a key way to share their work with a wider audience. Online platforms such as SBTV, LinkUp TV , GRM daily and UK Grime are all popular sites. Often using street corners and housing estates as a location,
these videos are a central component of the urban music scene. But the making of these music videos appears to feed into a continuing unease about youth crime and public safety.
Fifteen years ago, ministers were concerned about rap lyrics; in 2007 some MPs demanded to have videos banned after a shooting in Liverpool. UK drill music is only the focus of the most recent crackdown by the Metropolitan police, which has
requested YouTube to remove any music videos with violent content.
The production and circulation of urban music videos has become a contested activity -- and performance in the public sphere is presented as a cause for concern. This is leading to the criminalisation of everyday pursuits. Young people from poor
backgrounds are now becoming categorised as troublemakers through the mere act of making a music video.
Up until this week, I had never heard of a man with the username Sargon of Akkad. Apparently, he is a
political YouTube blogger, and seems to have an opinion on everything.
From my research, he is disliked by the far right and the far left. He gives his opinions in an honest way and invites debate. Nothing I have seen so far shows he is a hateful person. A lot of what he says I totally disagree with, but he certainly
has a right to say it.
I heard of him because he was due to appear last week at Scarborough Spa. The event was cancelled following a risk assessment. The risk appears to be a campaign by a local left wing group to stop him appearing, and it worked.
Labour councillor Rob Barnett said: Scarborough Spa are to be congratulated for refusing to allow their stage to be used. We don't need division -- we need unity to fight for a better society.
Obviously, the society that Mr Barnett wants is one where censorship rules over freedom of speech. I find it very worrying that a political group should seek to censor those who do not agree with them.