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
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
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.
Nostalgic references to the sweets, clothes and cartoons of yesteryear saw a number of drinks fall foul of the alcohol marketing rules last year, according to the Portman Group's annual report.
The Chair of the Independent Complaints Panel, Jenny Watson CBE, has urged marketers to be careful if they use retro designs which appeal to an adult's inner child because they may inadvertently also appeal to children today.
Three of the five cases that came before the Independent Complaints Panel in 2017 were about the use of nostalgia-based designs with complainants concerned that references to retro sweets, clothes and cartoons could have particular appeal to children.
In two of the cases, the complaints were upheld.
The majority of complaints received were under Code rules about particular appeal to under-18s and whether the alcoholic nature of the drink was communicated with clarity.
The Portman Group is currently updating its Code of Practice with the consultation running until the 6th July.
Five gang members caught with machetes and baseball bats have been banned from making drill music glorifying violence.
Members of the 1011 gang were jailed or detained for conspiracy to commit violent disorder, in Notting Hill.
The Criminal Behaviour Orders (CBOs), thought to be the first of their kind, bans the group from mentioning death or injury in songs or on social media. Three leaders will also be required to inform police of new music videos and upcoming
Recorder Ann Mulligan at Kingston Crown Court issued the three-year CBOs, following an application by the Metropolitan Police's Trident gang unit.
Mic, a rapper and producer form north London, said the order sets an ugly precedent. He said:
There is a censorship problem in the country. There are a lot of young musicians in this country whose only outlet for expressing themselves is music. It might be violent but what do you expect in the Britain we're in right now?
UK police are drilling down on a genre of rap music that they claim is driving rising knife and gun crime in London.
YouTube has deleted about 30 of 50-60 targeted by the Metropolitan Police in a dedicated operation against drill music, which originated in Chicago and has become increasingly popular in Britain.
Senior officers say the videos, which frequently contain graphic threats and gun signs, glamourise violence. Detective Superintendent Mike West said the number of videos that incite violence have been increasing since late 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 added. There are gestures of violence, with hand signals suggesting they
are firing weapons and graphic descriptions of what they would do to each other.
Scotland Yard has compiled a central database of more than 1,400 indexed videos that are used to gather intelligence. Anyone identified in the videos can be targeted with action including criminal behaviour orders that can prevent them from
associating with certain people, entering designated areas, wearing hoods or using social media and unregistered mobile phones.
Det Supt West said that only videos that raise the risk of violence are flagged, rather than drill music in general.
A woman has been convicted for performing offensive songs that included lyrics denying the Holocaust.
Alison Chabloz sang her compositions at a meeting of the far-right London Forum group.
A judge at Westminster Magistrates' Court found Chabloz had violated laws criminalising offence and intended to insult Jewish people.
District judge John Zani delayed her sentencing until 14 June but told the court: On the face of it this does pass the custody threshold.
Chabloz, a Swiss-British dual national, had uploaded tunes to YouTube including one defining the Nazi death camp Auschwitz as a theme park just for fools and the gas chambers a proven hoax. The songs remain available on YouTube.
The songs were partly set to traditional Jewish folk music, with lyrics like: Did the Holocaust ever happen? Was it just a bunch of lies? Seems that some intend to pull the wool over our eyes.
Adrian Davies, defending, previously told the judge his ruling would be a landmark one, setting a precedent on the exercise of free speech.
But Judge Zani said Chabloz failed by some considerable margin to persuade the court that her right to freedom of speech should provide her with immunity from prosecution. He said:
I am entirely satisfied that she will have intended to insult those to whom the material relates. Having carefully considered all evidence received and submissions made, I am entirely satisfied that the prosecution has proved beyond
reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty.
Chabloz was convicted of two counts of causing an offensive, indecent or menacing message to be sent over a public communications network after performing two songs at a London Forum event in 2016. As there wa nothing indecent or menacing in the
songs, Chabloz was convicted for an offensive message.
See The Britisher for an eloquent and passionate defence of free speech.
Universities minister Sam Gyimah hosts free speech summit and calls on higher education leaders to work together to create new guidance on free speech
Free speech on campus should be encouraged and those attempting to shut it down must have nowhere to hide, the Universities Minister will make clear to sector leaders at a free speech summit he is chairing today (Thursday 3 May).
Sam Gyimah will call on higher education organisations to stamp out the 'institutional hostility' to unfashionable views that have emerged in some student societies and will urge them to work with the government following recent
reports of a rise in so-called 'safe spaces' and 'no-platform' policies that have appeared on campuses.
He will say that the current landscape is "murky", with numerous pieces of disjointed sector guidance out there, creating a web of complexity which risks being exploited by those wishing to stifle free speech.
The Universities Minister will demand further action is taken to protect lawful free speech on campus and will offer to work with the sector to create new guidance that will for the first time provide clarity of the rules for
both students and universities -- making this the first government intervention of its kind since the free speech duty was introduced in 1986.
The guidance signals a new chapter for free speech on campus, ensuring future generations of students get exposure to stimulating debates and the diversity of viewpoints that lie at the very core of the university experience.
Universities Minister Sam Gyimah said:
A society in which people feel they have a legitimate right to stop someone expressing their views on campus simply because they are unfashionable or unpopular is rather chilling.
There is a risk that overzealous interpretation of a dizzying variety of rules is acting as a brake on legal free speech on campus.
That is why I am bringing together leaders from across the higher education sector to clarify the rules and regulations around speakers and events to prevent bureaucrats or wreckers on campus from exploiting gaps for their own
The free speech summit will be hosted in London and brings together a wide range of influential organisations, including those that have existing guidance in this area, such as the Charity Commission, UUK and EHRC.
The Office for Students, which came into force on April 1, will act to protect free speech and can use its powers to name, shame or even fine institutions for not upholding the principle of free speech. Michael Barber, Chair of
the Office for Students, said:
Our universities are places where free speech should always be promoted and fostered. That includes the ability for everyone to share views which may be challenging or unpopular, even if that makes some people feel uncomfortable.
This is what Timothy Garton-Ash calls 'robust civility'. The Office for Students will always encourage freedom of speech within the law. We will never intervene to restrict it.
Alistair Jarvis, Universities UK Chief Executive, said:
Universities are committed to promoting and protecting free speech within the law. Tens of thousands of speaking events are put on every year across the country, the majority pass without incident. A small number of flash points
do occasionally occur, on contentious or controversial issues, but universities do all they can to protect free speech so events continue.
As the Joint Committee on Human Rights recently found, there is no systematic problem with free speech in universities, but current advice can be strengthened. We welcome discussions with government and the National Union of
Students on how this can be done.
The Joint Committee on Human Rights launched an inquiry on freedom of speech on 22nd November and issued its report on 25th March. The roundtable attendee include:
Home Office -- Matt Collins, Director of Prevent
Office for Students (OfS) -- Yvonne Hawkins, Directer of Universities and Colleges
Charity Commission - Helen Stephenson, Chief Executive
NUS - Amatey Doku, Vice President
EHRC - Rebecca Thomas, Principal, Programmes
Universities UK (UUK) - Chris Hale, Director of Policy
iHE - Alex Proudfoot, Chief Executive
GuildHE - Alex Bols, Deputy CEO
Offsite Comment: Banning students from banning speakers is beyond stupid
So, the government has finally come up with a solution to the scourge of yellow-bellied censoriousness that has swept university campuses in recent years: it is going to ban it. Yes, it is going to ban banning. It is going to No Platform the No
Platformers. It is going to force universities to be pro-free speech. Which is such a contradiction in terms it makes my head hurt. You cannot use authoritarianism to tackle authoritarianism. This is a really bad thinking.
Sheriff O'Carroll had told the court he did not believe Meechan had made the video only to annoy his girlfriend and ruled it was anti-Semitic. Fining Meechan, he said:
You deliberately chose the Holocaust as the theme of the video.
I also found it proved that the video contained anti-Semitic, and racist material, in that it explicitly and exclusively referred to Jews, the Holocaust and the role of the Nazis in the death of six million Jews in a grossly offensive
manner. You knew or must have known that.
The social work report on you is important. It is very favourable to you and, leaving aside the circumstances of this offence, shows you to have led a generally pro-social life thus far.
It also shows that you have learned a certain amount from your experiences and that you are of low risk of reoffending.
In these circumstances, I rule out a custodial sentence and therefore any alternative to a custodial sentence. You have a certain amount of income and other resources according to the reports. I now fine you the sum of 2£800.
Offsite Comment: Count Dankula and the death of free speech
On freedom of speech, Britain has become the laughing stock of the Western world. People actually laugh at us. I recently gave a talk in Brazil on political correctness and I told the audience about the arrest and conviction of a Scottish man for
publishing a video of his girlfriend's pug doing a Nazi salute for a joke and they laughed. Loudly. Some of them refused to believed it was true.
Google has released their latest transparency report, for Youtube takedowns. It contains information about the number of government requests for terrorist or extremist content to be removed. For a number of years, the government has promoted the idea
that terrorist content is in rampant circulation, and that the amount of material is so abundant that the UK police alone are taking down up to 100,000 pieces of content a year.
These referrals, to Google, Facebook and others, come from a unit hosted at the Metropolitan Police, called CTIRU, or the
Counter-Terrorism Internet Referrals Unit . This unit has very minimal transparency about its work. Apart from claiming to have
removed over 300,000 pieces of terrorist-related content over a number of years, it refuses to say how large its workforce or budget are, and has never defined what a piece of content is.
Google and Twitter publish separate takedown request figures for the UK that must be largely from CTIRU. The numbers are much smaller than the tens of thousands that might be expected at each platform given the CTIRU figures of around
100,000 removals a year. For instance, Google reported 683 UK government takedown requests for 2,491 items through
Google and Twitter's figures imply that CTIRU file perhaps 2,000-4,000 removal requests a year, for maybe 12,000 items at most, implying a statistical inflation by CTIRU of around 1,000%.
A number of
CTIRU requests have been published on the takedown transparency database Lumen. These sometimes have more than one
URL for takedown. However this alone does not explain the disparity.
Perhaps a 'piece of terrorist content' is counted as that 'piece' viewed by each person known to follow a terrorist account, or perhaps everything on a web page is counted as a piece of terrorist content, meaning each web page might
Nonetheless, we cannot discount the possibility that the methodologies for reporting at the companies are in some way flawed. Without further information from CTIRU, we simply don't know whose figures are more reliable.
There are concerns that go beyond the statistics. CTIRU's work is never reviewed by a judge, and there are no appeals to ask CTIRU to stop trying to remove a website or content. It compiles a secret list of websites to be blocked on
the public estate, such as schools, departmental offices or hospitals, supplied to unstated companies via the Home Office. More or less nothing is known: except for the headline figure.
Certainly, CTIRU do not provide the same level of transparency as Google and other companies claim to be providing.
People have tried extracting further information from CTIRU, such as the content of the blacklist, but without success. Ministers have refused to supply financial information to Parliament, citing national security. ORG is the latest
group to ask for information, for a list of
statistics and a list of
documents ; turned down on grounds of national security and crime prevention. In the case of statistics, CTIRU are currently claiming
they hold no statistics other than their overall takedown figure; which if true, seems astoundingly lax from even a basic management perspective.
The methodology for calculating CTIRU's single statistic needs to be published, because what we do know about CTIRU is meaningless without it. Potentially, Parliament and the public are be being misled; or otherwise, misreporting by
Internet platforms needs to be corrected.
Police are to drop their controversial policy of automatically believing anyone who reports a crime.
A top-level report obtained by The Mail on Sunday says official guidance should be changed to tell detectives they must listen to victims and take them seriously -- but not automatically assume they are telling the truth.
The dramatic move follows a series of unjust inquiries based on false allegations that left dozens of innocent people's lives and reputations destroyed, including high-profile figures.
The U-turn has been drawn up by the College of Policing, which sets national standards, and after being considered by chief constables last week it will be sent to Home Office Ministers to become official policy.
Last night, former Police Minister David Mellor, who served under Leon Brittan, told the MoS: It's been obvious for years that the policy of automatic belief invites time-wasters and it's an invitation to cranks to come forward with ludicrous
allegations. He said:
Plainly if someone complains of a crime, that has got to be looked at, but the idea police should assume they're telling the truth invites dreadful injustice.
However, the change will be fiercely opposed by some feminist campaigners who seem to think that its ok to lock up innocent men, saying it will deter genuine rape victims from coming forward, for fear they will be disbelieved or ignored.
It takes 10s of 1000s of pounds for the justice system to consider the nuances of censorship and the right to be forgotten yet we hand over the task to Google who's only duty is to maximise profits for shareholders
A businessman fighting for the right to be forgotten has won a UK High Court action against Google.
The unnamed businessman who won his case was convicted 10 years ago of conspiring to intercept communications. He spent six months in jail. He as ked Google to delete online details of his conviction from Google Search but his request was turned down.
The judge, Mr Justice Mark Warby, ruled in his favour on Friday.
But he rejected a separate but similar claim made by another businessman who had committed a more serious crime. The other businessman, who lost his case, was convicted more than 10 years ago of conspiring to account falsely. He spent four years in
Google said it would accept the rulings.
We work hard to comply with the right to be forgotten, but we take great care not to remove search results that are in the public interest, it said in a statement:
We are pleased that the Court recognised our efforts in this area, and we will respect the judgements they have made in this case.'
Explaining the decisions made on Friday, the judge said one of the men had continued to mislead the public while the other had shown remorse.
But how is Google the right organisation to arbitrate on matters of justice where it is required to examine the level of remorse shown by those requesting censorship?
Justice is not seen to being done in the UK. A string of cases have emerged where men have been prosecuted for rape whilst evidence suggesting their innocence has been kept hidden away by the authorities. The presumption is that the authorities are
willing to let innocent people be convicted so as to inflate the rape conviction rates to keep feminist campaigners happy.
But once exposed, this failure in justice is surely very corrosive in trying to keep society ticking over in increasingly tetchy times.
So even the police have decided something needs to be done about this disastrous approach to justice. Met police commissioner Cressida Dick has announced that the police will abandon the policy of automatically believing 'victims '. [but using
the word 'victims' rather suggests the she still automatically believes complainants].
Dick said officers must investigate rather than blindly believe an allegation, and should keep an open mind when a 'victim' has come forward. It is very important to victims to feel that they are going to be believed , she told the Times. [But
what about when they are out and out lying]. She added:
Our default position is we are, of course, likely to believe you but we are investigators and we have to investigate.
Dick spoke about several other topics including a whinge about the violent undercurrent in some music, especially grime.
Meanwhile Alison Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecution overseeing this disgraceful period of injustice, will not get her contract renewed by the government.