YouTube says it has deleted more than half of the music videos that the country’s most senior police officer asked it to take down, amid fears they are fuelling a wave in violent crime.
The Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Cressida Dick, has blamed social media for fuelling a surge in murders in London, singling out the “drill” genre of rap music for glamourising criminality.
Drill videos online often feature hooded and masked gangs threatening each other with violent lyrics, gestures and hand signals, with some attracting millions of views.
The Met has built up a database of more than 1,400 videos to use as an intelligence tool as the force tries to tackle an increase in killings, with more than 60 murder investigations launched already this year.
A group of drill musicians called 1011, whose videos have been taken down from YouTube, have launched an online petition, which has so far attracted more than 5,000 signatures.
In April, the father of a 15-year-old murder victim called YouTube “appalling” for hosting a video which helped fuel a gang rivalry that led to his son’s death.
In the past two years Scotland Yard has asked YouTube to take down between 50 and 60 music videos, having to prove they incite violence for the requests to be successful.
The video-sharing site, owned by Google, has removed more than 30 of the clips from the platform – or just over half – in cases where they were found to be in violation of its policies.
YouTube said the majority of the videos flagged up by the Met are no longer available on its platform and the company has developed policies to tackle videos related to knife crime.
Some of the drill music videos still available online feature groups associated with the post code war linked to the murder of Tanesha Melbourne, 17, who was shot dead in Tottenham last month.
It is not known whether the Met has asked YouTube to remove them.
Detective Superintendent Mike West said the force has been monitoring the increase in the number of videos that incite violence since September 2015.
“The gangs try to outrival each other with the filming and content – what looks like a music video can actually contain explicit language with gangs threatening each other,” he said.
“There are gestures of violence, with hand signals suggesting they are firing weapons and graphic descriptions of what they would do to each other.
“The Met has got a central database of more than 1,400 indexed videos that we assess and use to gather intelligence.”
DS West said the force only asks for videos which “we believe raise the risk of violence” to be removed.
He added: “Closer partnership work with Google has been developed in the past few months, in order to evolve and increase our capacity to remove social media videos that incite violence, as quickly as possible.”
Pressplay, a company that promotes drill music videos, said on its Instagram page that police had “forced” YouTube to take some clips down because of “what’s happened lately”.
But the same post said the clips “will probably be back up in the next few weeks”.
Speaking on LBC radio, Dick, the most senior police officer in the country, highlighted how easily drill music videos can be easily accessed on tablets and mobile phones.
“Very quickly, you will see these are associated with lyrics which are about glamourising violence, serious violence – murder, stabbings – they describe the stabbings in great detail, with great joy and excitement,” she said.
She linked drill music to at least one attack in London and said web giants have a “social responsibility” to remove content that glamourises violence.
A YouTube spokesman said: “We have developed policies specifically to help tackle videos related to knife crime in the UK and are continuing to work constructively with experts on this issue.
“We work with the Metropolitan Police, the Mayor’s office for policing and crime, the Home Office, and community groups to understand this issue and ensure we are able to take action on gang-related content that infringe our community guidelines or break the law.
“Along with others in the UK, we share the deep concern about this issue and do not want our platform used to incite violence.”