Gangs' social media use leading to spike in violence

Research studies UK criminals using YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram and Periscope

Gangs in England are increasingly using social media to goad each other - which is leading to spikes in violence, according to new research.

The study was commissioned by Catch22, a charity and social business that aims to help people in tough situations.

It found that social media sites, such as YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram and Periscope, are sometimes used by gangs to upload videos and pictures of themselves boasting about gang activity.

Researcher Keir Irwin Rodgers told Sky News: "Most rivalries between gangs exist for reasons other than those related to social media, but young people involved in gangs often upload videos to social media platforms.

"A very small section of those are described by young people as gangs videos and, when they go online, we often see a spike in violence afterwards, because the videos themselves talk about recent incidents of violence in the community between members of rival gangs, or they involve threats, and that often provokes a reaction then from the gangs in question."

Some of the YouTube gang videos seen by Sky News purport to show large knives being paraded. Threats of violence are also made.

Researchers stress rivalries between gangs exist for reasons other than social media and that their work looks into only a very small minority of music videos.

The majority of videos filmed by young people in communities are not linked to gang activity.
Midlandz Connected are a group of hip hop and grime artists from Birmingham who say they use music and social media as a vehicle for positivity and creativity.

One member, Eko, told Sky News: "With people, if they want to get involved in negative behaviour or negative attitudes, that's going to happen, regardless whether they're making music or not.

"Social media is being used as a tool. I think a lot of people use it in a negative way, but it can also be used in a positive light."

The report presenting the results of the study into the use of social media by gangs will say:
- Spikes in violence have occurred after gang music videos have been uploaded between the gang represented in the video and rival gangs that have been taunted.
Episodes of child sexual exploitation have been broadcast live by young males involved in gangs.
- Incidents of gang-violence have been broadcast, including fights and episodes of humiliation.
- Other gang-related activities have been promoted, including the amount of money being made from selling drugs.

YouTube, Periscope, Instagram and Snapchat have said they work to remove explicit material from their social media sites and have teams which directly respond to potentially violent material.