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YouTube cashes in on violent 'drill music' videos

  • YouTube-owned by tech giant Google is cashing in on violent drill music videos
  • Adverts for toys, games and films routinely appear around the violent songs 
  • YouTube may have made thousands of pounds from four popular videos
  • Drill music has been blamed for fuelling the recent surge in gang violence  

Ben Ellery

and
Holly Bancroft For The Mail On Sunday

YouTube is profiting from horrific gangster music videos that glamorise knife and gun attacks and are made by convicted criminals, a Mail on Sunday investigation reveals today.

Shockingly, the internet giant and the film-makers make money from toy, game and film adverts aimed at children that appear when the videos are viewed.

The rap songs are in the notorious ‘drill’ style, which has been blamed for fuelling the recent surge in gang violence.

Alexander Elliott-Joahill, also known as A6, is a well known drill star and has been jailed for stabbing a man 13 times in an unprovoked attack

Alexander Elliott-Joahill, also known as A6, is a well known drill star and has been jailed for stabbing a man 13 times in an unprovoked attack

Alexander Elliott-Joahill, also known as A6, is a well known drill star and has been jailed for stabbing a man 13 times in an unprovoked attack

Over the past two years police have asked YouTube to take down up to 60 videos, but officers are required to prove that the clips are harmful first 

Over the past two years police have asked YouTube to take down up to 60 videos, but officers are required to prove that the clips are harmful first 

Over the past two years police have asked YouTube to take down up to 60 videos, but officers are required to prove that the clips are harmful first 

This advert for Early Man appeared on YouTube following one of A6's violent videos

This advert for Early Man appeared on YouTube following one of A6's violent videos

This advert for Early Man appeared on YouTube following one of A6’s violent videos

The videos have been viewed millions of times and YouTube – owned by tech giant Google – have made thousands of pounds from just four videos alone.

Writing on these pages today, Scotland Yard chief Cressida Dick urges social media companies to do more to combat the glamorisation of knife crime by stopping its ‘dissemination’.

One song was made by a criminal known as A6 – he was jailed for stabbing a man 13 times in an unprovoked attack.

It features hooded gang members bragging about knifing their rivals on a council estate.

In the past two years, police have asked YouTube to take down up to 60 videos but officers are forced to prove the clips are ‘harmful’ first.

The site has removed just over 30 where they were found to be in violation of its policies.

Reporters from this newspaper were still able to watch several drill videos featuring knives and incorporating adverts targeted at youngsters, despite YouTube claiming it does not allow videos with weapons.

An advert for pop star Rita Ora, a former judge on The Voice and The X Factor, appears on a video for gang B Side, in which they brandish a machete and a shotgun

An advert for pop star Rita Ora, a former judge on The Voice and The X Factor, appears on a video for gang B Side, in which they brandish a machete and a shotgun

An advert for pop star Rita Ora, a former judge on The Voice and The X Factor, appears on a video for gang B Side, in which they brandish a machete and a shotgun

The internet giants cash in on the advertising generated by these popular and violent videos

The internet giants cash in on the advertising generated by these popular and violent videos

The internet giants cash in on the advertising generated by these popular and violent videos

One video by A6 – real-name Alexander Elliott-Joahill – has been on YouTube for a year and viewed 130,000 times. His song, called I Am God, features several members of his gang, Block 6 – named after a tower block in Catford, South-East London – brandishing large serrated blades and includes violent lyrics about stabbings.

YouTube viewers of the song see adverts for Marvel ‘superhero’ Nerf toy guns and the hugely popular video game Minecraft.

Elliott-Joahill, 25, became notorious during the 2011 London riots when he was arrested with Laura Johnson, the daughter of a millionaire, who had been chauffeuring him around during a ten-hour ‘orgy’ of looting.

Elliott-Joahill was jailed for eight years for looting and described as the ‘worst’ of the rioters after smashing a brick through the window of a police car driven by a female police officer. At the time of the riots he was spotted wearing a skull mask.

He was later released only to be jailed again last year for 15 years after stabbing a man with a ‘rambo’ knife similar to those in his YouTube video. The victim had to be rushed to hospital for abdominal surgery. In the video, Elliott-Joahill wears a skull mask similar to the one seen in the riots and uses slang to describe stabbing his enemies. The lyrics include: ‘I’ll chef [stab] man with that rambo [knife]. I’ll chef man in the stomach, I’ll chef man for my queen and for my bruddas [brothers].’ The song continues: ‘What you know about block? Man come get shot. Got stabbed up in my leg in a fist fight. He got caught on the bus then he got stabbed in his windpipe. I remember the time when man got got at the shops, I shanked [stabbed] man then I bopped [walked off].’

The video is available to watch without any age restrictions.

A6 has another song on YouTube, called Bl@ckbox, in which he raps about pouring bleach into the eyes of a kidnap victim.

Viewers of the video see an advert for the children’s animated film Early Man.

Another video, by a Brixton gang called 410, features young hooded men waving a large knife. The video features adverts for a Spinballz football game toy, Sony mobile phones and Pizza Hut. It has received three million views.

The lyrics warn: ‘F**k shanks [knives] man, I like big guns, chrome to your face where’s my ones? 12-inch in my waist that’s stainless, 12-inch in my waist go through chest plate.’

And another video, by Lewisham gang B-side, called Where They Hiding, features an advert at the beginning for pop star Rita Ora’s new song, Girls. The video has been viewed 37,000 times. Two members of B-side were jailed last year for stabbing to death music producer Dean Pascal-Modeste.

They sing: ‘Dip dip [stab stab] through a man’s back then my rambo punches man’s kidney. Little D KK Arzi will stab man up for no reason.’

On Friday the Met launched its 70th murder investigation of the year after spiralling numbers of deaths caused by gang violence.

The Met has built up a database of more than 1,400 videos to use as an intelligence tool in an attempt to reduce violent crime.

Ms Dick said: ‘Drill music is associated with lyrics which are about glamorising serious violence: murder, stabbings. They describe the stabbings in great detail, joy and excitement. Extreme violence against women is often talked about. Most particularly, in London we have gangs who make drill videos and in those videos they taunt each other. They say what they’re going to do to each other and specifically what they are going to do to who.’

In February, a drill artist, Junior Simpson, 17, known as M-Trap 0, was jailed for life for murdering Jermaine Goupall in a seemingly random attack. The court heard the circumstances of the killing were foreshadowed in lyrics written by Simpson before the attack. He wrote: ‘I saw man run. He got poked up [knifed]. He had his poke and he still got touched [stabbed].’

Sentencing Simpson, Judge Anthony Leonard said: ‘You wrote lyrics that predicted the exact type of crime that took place.’

Chris Preddie, a former gang member who has been awarded the OBE for his work with young offenders, said: ‘It’s absolutely disgusting that YouTube is making money from these horrifying videos. YouTube is helping to fuel gang violence.’

Adverts appear in the videos after companies tell YouTube which demographic of audience would like to see its products. The companies pay YouTube a fixed amount for a certain number of views.

YouTube runs the adverts alongside videos it thinks match those audiences and passes some of the money from the companies on to the video creators. YouTube claimed the revenue it made from these videos was ‘very small’, though marketing expert Matt Thorpe estimated the company had earned thousands of pounds from the four drill music videos. 

Conservative MP Damian Collins, chairman of the influential Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, said The Mail on Sunday’s findings would be looked into as part of an ongoing inquiry into social media companies.

He said: ‘It is too easy for adverts that are aimed at children to appear alongside videos that are much more adult in their content.’

Last night YouTube stopped three of the four videos highlighted by The Mail on Sunday from being shown in the UK.

Bl@ckbox by A6 remains up but now no longer carries adverts.

A YouTube spokesman said: ‘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. We share the deep concern about this and do not want our platform used to incite violence.’

Last night, after being contacted by the MoS, Pizza Hut and Spinballz pulled their YouTube advertising. Rita Ora’s record company said her advert would be withdrawn. Hasbro said it would pull its YouTube advert for Marvel Nerf guns. Sony is to investigate.

Why the glamorising of murder must stop now by Met Police Commissioner CRESSIDA DICK

Anything that glamorises, celebrates or encourages the senseless murder of our young people or stabbing someone with a 10in knife is simply wrong.

That is essentially what we are seeing in some drill music, which can have tremendous reach.

To see the way in which murder and violence are almost showcased as a way to lure more young people into that way of life, to breed fear and spark yet more violence, is something none of us can allow to continue. Music, role models and social media have a hugely powerful and positive impact. 

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick, pictured, said anything which glamorises , celebrates or encourages senseless murder is simply wrong

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick, pictured, said anything which glamorises , celebrates or encourages senseless murder is simply wrong

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick, pictured, said anything which glamorises , celebrates or encourages senseless murder is simply wrong

Used in the wrong way the consequences can, quite literally, be deadly. The speed at which an online disagreement can escalate into violence is staggering.

That is why my officers will fully exploit any and all legislation. We are out there day and night arresting people, taking knives out of young people’s hands and offering them ways into an alternative lifestyle.

Commissioner Dick said her officers were working to take knives off the streets

Commissioner Dick said her officers were working to take knives off the streets

Commissioner Dick said her officers were working to take knives off the streets

This is not something we the police can solve alone, but we will make sure we continue to do everything in our power. I would ask everyone – from the CEO of a global social media giant to people on our streets who know when violence is going to happen – can you honestly say you are doing everything in your power?

Recently, I have seen a really encouraging response from many companies, communities and young people themselves. There is growing sense of how all of us can, together, make our cities safer. Social media companies have a responsibility to be part of that and must act swiftly to stop this harmful material disseminating. I’m looking forward to working with them even more in the future.

Sadly, while we are arresting people and seizing knives and guns, my officers are also out there trying to save a young person as they lie bleeding in the street, or breaking a mother’s heart as they notify her that her son is dead or seriously injured. 

That human impact and senseless waste of life is not something that should ever be glamorised.

 

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