The head of the British division of YouTube on Friday ruled out banning a controversial style of street music that some activists blame for fueling London gang violence.
Anti-knife crime campaigners smeared their hands with fake blood during a rally in May outside YouTube’s London offices in protest against the Google-owned video sharing platform’s alleged promotion of graphic content.
They criticise drill music in particular — a London hip hop style filled with sparse beats and explicit lyrics especially popular in black communities.
London’s police chief last year said drill’s dark lyrics have had a “terrible effect” on glamourising violence and gang membership.
The UK capital’s force has asked for dozens of videos to be taken down.
But YouTube UK managing director Ben McOwen Wilson said the line between the protection of public safety and the promotion of artistic expression was not always clear.
“While some have argued there is no place for drill music on YouTube, we believe we can help provide a place for those too often without a voice,” McOwen Wilson wrote in The Daily Telegraph newspaper.
“To strike this balance, we work with the (London) police, community groups and experts to understand local context and take actions where needed.”
Britain has very tough gun laws and shootings across the country are relatively rare.
But knife crime has been a problem for much of the past decade — particularly in poorer neighbourhoods of big cities such as London where gang violence remains a concern.
The last available official statistics show 285 people being stabbed to death across England and Wales between April 2017 and March 2018.
The figure is the highest for a 12-month period since such records began being compiled in 1946.
McOwen Wilson said it was important “to find the balance that will enable Britain’s creative talent to stay on the cutting edge of culture”.
YouTube came in for particular criticism for being slow to take down videos of a massacre at two New Zealand mosques that killed 51 Muslim worshippers in March.
McOwen Wilson said YouTube removed 8.3 million videos globally between January and March.
“And 77 percent of those were flagged by machines, the majority of which were removed before a single view,” he wrote. AFP