by NADEEM BADSHAH
ACTIVISTS CALL ON SOCIAL MEDIA FIRMS TO MONITOR CONTENT ON THEIR PLATFORMS
INTERNET giants have been urged to act to stop knife crime escalating after an Eastern Eye investigation found videos promoting violence between gangs from different parts of the UK.
One clip on YouTube showed hooded men from black and Asian backgrounds in a music video which made reference to guns.
The footage, from a group in east London, contained the lyrics: “We come they run. You made a p****hole famous and I am on page four.”
Another video showed a teenage boy making threatening comments in a song containing the name of a gang in Slough, Berkshire.
He said: “Man going to get shot, I don’t care. Man going to get smoked, caught up like a fish.
“Man going to get cut up.”
A further clip showed a group of young boys from Acton, west London, in nearby Southall with the caption, “ride on Southall puss***s”.
Social media has been partly blamed by police chiefs for escalating rivalries which has led at least 60 people being killed from knife or gun crime this year.
The most recent instances of knife crime include the death last month of a 20-year-old man in Finsbury Park, London, while last Monday (23), two teenagers were attacked in the suburb of West Kensington and a man was knifed at the capital’s Woolwich DLR station.
An 18-year-old boy was stabbed to death on April 16 in Newham, east London. Mushad Ahmed, founder of One Formation in Leeds which tackles knife and gang crime, told Eastern Eye: “It is crucial that social media companies do more to tackle online content hosted on their platforms. Whether it’s extremist or gang-related content, there is no place for the glorification of violence in any form online, just as there isn’t on our streets.
“This is an issue, however, that can’t be solely addressed online and must also considered at a community level.”
He added: “At One Formation, as well as hosting workshops where we actively address issues such as knife and gang crime, we provide a safe space for kids and teenagers to come together, to practice their sport, and to learn valuable skills such as discipline and teamwork.”
Last year, 116 people died from stabbings and there were 37,443 knife crimes.
Among the victims this year are 16-year-old Amaan Shakoor who was shot dead in Walthamstow, east London, on April 3.
Fiyaz Mughal, founder of the Faith Matters group which addresses tensions between communities, told Eastern Eye: “Social media has allowed the transmission of ‘fake news’ and local tensions to be circulated within seconds, meaning that sometimes the facts are not facts but fiction.
“If there are local tensions, these may be exacerbated and lead to actions that can lead to loss of life.
“Social media has become the new frontier and Wild West and we are all having to review how it impacts on our lives.”
Other videos found by this newspaper include a brawl between youths in east London, with a car being attacked by a mob carrying knives before the driver gets out brandishing a samurai sword.
Halel Ahmed, a youth worker manager at the Spotlight centre in London, said giving young people opportunities to take part in sport or the arts is vital to preventing crime.
He said: “Some families are living in poverty, overcrowded homes, there are mental health issues, peer pressure, people using young people to work for them. It’s a multi-faceted problem.
“We have a saying in my home country – it’s not the mum and dad that brings up a child, it’s the whole village. We have no first-line services for young people. I remember going to youth clubs, but services have been cut dramatically.
“You have to work with the hearts and minds of young people to get them motivated in something positive. We have a state-of-the-art youth centre, dance studio, boxing gym so there’s something that the young person might like.”
Sarah Hughes, chief executive at the Centre for Mental Health, said knife crime is often rooted in the environment youngsters are growing up in.
She said: “Research shows that young people involved in gangs and youth violence often have poor mental health as a result of the wear and tear of struggling to survive in the face of poverty, discrimination and insecurity.
“As well as tackling triggers involving social media, we need to understand the lives of young people and listen to what they tell us about what puts them at risk of getting involved in violence.”
Former home secretary Amber Rudd had unveiled a new strategy to tackle violent crime in April, including tougher laws on buying “zombie knives” online, extending stop and searches by police and banning the sale of acid to under-18s.
She said smartphones have given gangs an “almost unlimited opportunity” to provoke each other and platforms like YouTube and Snapchat must make it clear that gang content would be removed.
It emerged earlier last month that Scotland Yard have requested the removal of only three YouTube gang videos since last August, despite tracking hundreds and warning that they were fuelling crime.
In a statement, YouTube said: “We share the concern about the recent violence in London and obviously do not want YouTube used to provoke violence.
“We work with the Metropolitan Police. We’ve developed a dedicated process in the UK for law enforcement to flag videos to our teams and we rely on specialist context from the police, which is essential when these videos present as music videos.”