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YouTube deletes UK drill music videos after police link it to knife crime

Content removed after police chief says drill lyrics are driving stabbings in London

Having been blamed as a key driver of the spike in knife crime in London, YouTube has deleted dozens of music videos over fears that the lyrics were inciting violence.

Since it became popular online, UK drill has been defined by an estate-bound, hyper-local mentality. The scene appeared to be structured around pre-existing gang rivalries. UK drillers invade their rivals’ favoured chicken shops and urinate on their street signs, while YouTube commenters track skyrocketing ‘scoreboards’ of stabbings in and around Brixton. However, as with grime, hip hop, and heavy metal – blaming music for societies ills has happened before and no successful links have been found

Yet, much of the media coverage of the genre has fuelled the idea that the violence in the lyrics is behind attacks, although matters were made worse when 17-year-old rapper Junior Simpson was given a life sentence after writing a song about knife violence before he and three others stabbed 15-year-old Jermaine Goupall to death.

According to the Press Association, Scotland Yard has now requested for between 50 and 60 music videos to be taken down from YouTube over the last two years. Of these, around 30 have been removed.

“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,” Mike West from Metropolitan Police told the BBC. “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 police have stated that they now have a database of more than 1,400 videos to use as an intelligence tool in an attempt to reduce violent crime. A YouTube spokesman confirmed the news in a statement: “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.”

Over 5,000 people so far have signed a petition by a drill group 1011, calling on YouTube to stop banning the group and targeting drill. This may be linked to the fact that fans think the music is influenced by the rapper’s violent surroundings not the other way round. Earlier this month, we spoke to teenagers from areas impacted the most by knife violence – many of them were of the opinion that targeting musical genres is misguided. 

17-year-old Nouf said: “There’s no point blaming music. Music is a reflection of somebody's reality, so when you have music that’s violent, that kind of shows that person's been through something.”