Sadiq Khan condemns YouTube for allowing glorification of gang culture

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has spoken out against internet giant YouTube for failing to remove four gang videos, which incite violence and threaten rival gang members. The Google-owned company purports to have strict guidelines relating to content, with policies against “threats, harassment, intimidation [and] inciting others to commit violent acts”.

Sadiq Khan condemns YouTube for allowing glorification of gang culture

The videos in question, which reportedly feature gang members wielding large knives and describing killing methods in a bid to intimidate rivals, have not been removed, as YouTube maintains that the videos do not breach their terms. But with a staggering 356,000 views already, it’s easy to see why Khan is concerned.

Violent content can spread like wildfire on social media, glorifying knife crime amongst young people and leading to a spike in crime rates. Khan went on to elucidate: “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.” Escalation of violence in London is indeed a problem, with the Guardian reporting that gun crime in the capital increased by 42% between 2014/15 and 2015/16, and knife crime by 24% in the same time period.

“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 ensure such horrific videos do not reappear,” Kahn said, “Lives could depend on it.”

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for YouTube 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 countries and time zones around the world to review and remove flagged content that breaks our rules […] 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.”

It’s not just policy specialists carrying out this work either; machine learning has increasingly been used to identify and remove extremist videos on YouTube before human viewers flag up content. In fact, in the past month, over three-quarters of violent extremist videos removed from YouTube were identified using AI. It comes as just one of the measures designed to reign in hate speech and radicalisation on YouTube; the site has been working with specialist NGOs to hone their recognition and expulsion of hate speech. In addition, its HR team is looking to recruit policy consultants to review and update policy according to current political climates.

Alas, Sadiq Khan’s mayoral term isn’t up until 2020. For now, he’s doing a great job as London’s very own violent crime vigilante, calling up internet giants for permitting the glamorisation of knife crime.

Image: Dionysus Olympian, used under Creative Commons

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