On the internet, the London police track the drill, a sub-genre of rap, to make it disappear

Tech&Co

British law enforcement seeks to silence the drill. It has set up partnerships to remove this musical genre from platforms such as Youtube, but also Facebook or Twitter.

The UK doesn’t like drill. According to the London police, this musical genre would incite violence and would even be at the origin of an increase in stabbings. So from 2015, the Metropolitan Police (Met) is doing everything to remove this music from the internet. Starting by partnering with Youtube to moderate the content of the platform itself.

Originally from Chicago, drill is similar to rap. Only, the hip-hop artists who practice it wanted to describe more accurately the daily life of poor American neighborhoods. For this, the texts took a more aggressive and violent turn. Gang warfare and armed violence have thus become commonplace in the texts.

96.7% of reports accepted by YouTube

But in England, the style does not pass. London police believe quest for truth in songs goes beyond creative expression to become admission of criminal activity, says on its website Electronic Frontier Foundation. This international NGO defends the protection of freedoms on the internet.

Met Chief Cressida Dick, indicates that gangs post drill videos to taunt each other. She assures that this musical genre “glamorizes” the violence, in particular through precise descriptions of the joy and the excitement of stabbing.

This is why in 2015, the “Domain operation” is launched. It aims to monitor gang activity on the internet. The police are thus engaged in a fight against videos inciting violence on YouTube. If the authorities deny applying censorship and claim not to hinder freedom of expression, the British police have nevertheless removed a good deal of content.

In January 2021, the BBC counted 579 requests from the authorities since November 2016. 522 of these “potentially dangerous content” have been removed. In 2021, Vice this time has 510 reports for drill videos. YouTube complied with UK police requests 96.7% of the time.

When “Operation Domain” was renamed “Project Alpha” in 2021, YouTube granted the Metropolitan Police “trusted flagger” status, a first for law enforcement. This label is part of a moderation program including administrative authorities and NGOs. The goal is to provide trusted flaggers with powerful tools to flag content more effectively.

Partnership decried

According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, YouTube would not be so strict with content relating to this music without its partnership with the London police.

“When sites cooperate with government agencies under moderation systems, the platform is inherently biased in favor of government positions and gives law enforcement inordinate influence to control public dialogue, suppress dissent and stifle social movements, denounces the NGO. It also pushes platforms to moderate speech that they might not have chosen to moderate themselves.”

The organization also tackles the police and their “street illiteracy”. According to her, by systematically associating music with violence, the authorities exacerbate the idea that the drill depicts real actions that the perpetrators have seen or done, rather than an “artistic expression communicated in a culturally specific language that the police are rarely able to decode”.

However, the musical genre also seems targeted in its country of origin. New York Mayor Eric Adams compared the drill to Donald Trump’s tweets, calling for his removal from social media.

“We took Trump off Twitter because of what he was spouting,” he said. in February 2022. Yet we allow music, the display of guns, violence. We allow this to remain on these sites.”

Will the English moderation system be generalized to all social networks? For the time being, the Metropolitan Police mainly targets content posted on YouTube. But in March 2022London law enforcement said they are also working with Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Twitter.

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