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Anti-violence campaigners picket YouTube over ‘mocking’ videos

Tech giant urged to take down distressing videos quicker

22 May, 2019 — By Helen Chapman

YOUTUBE, the world-famous video-sharing website, faced a knife crime protest at the doors of its King’s Cross offices on Friday, after a campaigner spent six months trying to remove a video that mocked victims of youth violence.

The tech giant was told that videos referencing and “bragging about” knife murders in London had been uploaded and that they were taking too long to be removed from view.

Elaine Donnellon, a mother-of-two and one of the organisers of the Operation Shutdown protest, said she spent six months trying to remove a particular video linked to the killings of Sadiq Aadam Mohammed, 20, and Abdikarim Hassan, 17, who died after being stabbed on the same night last year.

The protest drew together campaigners, youth workers and mothers whose sons have died in stabbings.

Some, with hands painted red, chanted: “YouTube, blood on their hands.”

Ms Donnellon said: “We are targeting the corporate responsibility of YouTube. For something to take six months to come down is not acceptable. Their reporting and flagging system is not fit for purpose – it needs to be vastly improved. It [the video] was bragging about ‘making them dead’, ‘putting them in the ground’, ‘making their mothers cry’. It was filmed on the spot where one of the killings took place. We think content should be suspended immediately after it is flagged whilst pending an investigation.”

After marching to YouTube’s offices – part of the Google empire – Ms Donnellon and ­mothers affected by youth violence were invited in to meet with Ben McOwen Wilson, the company’s UK director of content partnerships.

The press were not allowed into the meeting.

Ms Donnellon told the New Journal afterwards: “They made us tea and were very accommodating. It was a really constructive meeting. You­Tube acknowledged that they could do more and can do better. They have agreed to meet us further and help to improve their systems and processes and enforce their own community safety standards and policies. We will now be drawing up a list of recommendations for YouTube and will be contacting them for another meeting.”

Helena Donaghey, sister of Michelle McPhillips whose son Jonathon JJ McPhillips died in knife violence in 2017 in Islington, said at the protest: “YouTube shares dangerous videos that we have been trying to stop. It is all about having less violence on the streets and it’s about justice.”

A YouTube spokesman said: “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.”

He added: “We have a dedicated process for the police and the Prison Service to flag videos directly to our teams because we often need specialist context from law enforcement to identify real-life threats. Along with others in the UK, we share the deep concern about this issue and do not want our platform used to incite violence.”

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