New 20-person team to become centre of excellence for understanding and combating gang-related online activity
The government is dedicating £1.38m to the creation of a specialist unit to tackle gang-related social-media activity.
The team, which will be housed within London’s Metropolitan Police, will be made up of 20 police officers and other staff. They will be tasked with seeking out both covert and overt threats, messages, or incitements to violence related to gangs. Such content will then be flagged to social media companies to be taken down.
The funding for the unit will be drawn from the £40m set aside to deliver the government’s Serious Violence Strategy. Tackling the role social media plays in perpetuating gang activity is a key part of the strategy, and home secretary Sajid Javid invited representatives from Facebook and Google to the most recent meeting of the government’s Serious Violence Taskforce.
- Hancock vows ‘social media companies are not above the law’ after Facebook meeting
- Home secretary urges Silicon Valley to help government in tackling online extremism
- Prime minister tells tech giants to remove terrorist content within two hours or face penalties
“Street gangs are increasingly using social media as a platform to incite violence, taunt each other, and promote crime,” Javid said. “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.”
Assisting, inciting, or encouraging violence via online channels is already a criminal offence. To help catch perpetrators and eliminate illegal or harmful content, the Home Office will work in partnership with the Metropolitan Police and the London Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime, as well as with internet firms and local charities.
Duncan Ball, the Met’s assistant commissioner and the national policing lead for gangs, said: “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.”
He added: “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.”