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London mayor hits out at YouTube over violent gang videos

YouTube refused to comply with police requests to remove content, which officers believe glorifies stabbings, amid spike in knife crime in the UK capital.

YouTube has been castigated by London mayor Sadiq Khan over its decision to defy a police request to remove four videos which reportedly show violent, knife-wielding gang members in the UK capital describing murder methods and threatening their rivals.

The videos, said to have garnered 356,000 views in total, remain online despite being the subject of takedown requests to YouTube from the Metropolitan Police, which provided the video-sharing website with “detailed context” on precisely why the clips are thought to be so dangerous, City Hall has stated.

Despite YouTube's terms insisting that it takes threats, harassment, intimidation (and) inciting others to commit violent acts seriously, the site has not removed the clips and has apparently ruled they do not breach its guidelines.

Knife crime has risen dramatically in London in recent years and Khan said the continuing presence of the videos showed current measures put in place by tech giants did not go far enough.

He said: “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.

“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 glamourisation of gang culture.”

Claire Hubberstey, chief executive of Safer London, a charity working to prevent gang violence, said the videos were “highly dangerous” and posed a “significant risk to those who appear in them”.

She added: “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.”

Similar violent videos have previously been used in successful prosecutions and helped convict four men for the murder of 18-year-old Marcel Addai in September 2015.

The decision by the London mayor to speak out over the issue comes after Twitter spurned an offer from one of the UK’s leading police officers to help it clamp down on online abuse.

Mike Barton, who is Chief Constable of Durham Constabulary, called for more emphasis to be placed on people’s safety than on concepts like freedom of speech.

He also appeared to suggest search engines should consider automatically blocking all results brought up when users type in certain phrases which are known to be popular among people seeking out child pornography.

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