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While ‘drill’ rap is not the sole cause of a spike in violence in the UK, it glamorises gun and knife crime

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glamorises gun and knife use

After receiving requests from police in London, Google-owned video-streaming platform YouTube has taken down a number of “drill” rap music videos that senior officers had claimed were helping to fuel a spate of violent crime across the UK. This followed a recent uptick in knife and gun crime in London that saw the city’s murder rate surpass that of New York last month, despite Britain’s notoriously restrictive gun laws. Over the course of the past two years, the Metropolitan Police has asked YouTube to remove as many as 60 drill rap videos that it claimed were inciting young men to commit violent crimes against gang rivals. The social media giant is said to have taken down over 30 of these, having discovered they violated its own policies. YouTube is also said to have developed new procedures to help its moderators identify and remove content related to knife and gun crime. But despite its recently-reported action, the platform still hosts numerous drill music videos in which young men, many of whom hide their faces behind masks, can be heard openly rapping about their readiness to resort to violence and willingness to use knives and firearms.

Drill rap videos routinely feature footage of young men posturing in gangs of varying sizes around social housing estates in inner-city locations, where they issue violent threats to their rivals and boast about their connections with the drugs trade, and the sometimes unpleasant manner in which they treat women. Viewers who are not up to speed with many of the slang terms drill rappers use are left in little doubt as to the content of the lyrics that accompany the videos, thanks to many of the artists who appear in them regularly making shooting and stabbing motions with their hands as they rap over sparse, sinister sounding beats. Discussing the threat posed by drill rap music during a radio interview earlier this month, Scotland Yard Commissioner Cressida Dick said social media firms have a responsibility to take down any material that might incite violence, noting: “[The videos] describe stabbing with great detail, and [with] great joy, obscene violence against women.”

Supporters of drill rap, which originates from Chicago, argue it is simply another in a long line of music genres that officials have tried to ban on account of a perceived malign influence on young people. However, it is hard to argue against the fact that few other types of music have been so inextricably linked with gang violence. Even artists from the 1990s golden era of US hip-hop failed to describe knife and gun crime with such casual glee as modern UK drill artists do routinely throughout their material. It is also commonly argued that the young men who make UK drill rap are simply reflecting the lives they and their contemporaries live in their lyrics, and that their art is not one of the many root causes of rising levels of violent crime in Britain. This suggestion would carry more weight if it were not for the fact that a number of young people have lost their lives on the streets of the UK as a result of threats issued in drill rap videos. Where once rivalries between rappers would be played out as much for the entertainment of listeners and fans than anything else, the gang affiliations of many drill artists can lead to situations in which individuals feel it becomes a question of honour and respect to carry out the threats they make in their songs.

This February, teenage rapper Junior Simpson was jailed for life after he and two others were convicted of stabbing 15-year-old Jermaine Goupall to death in South London. A court heard how Simpson had written lyrics describing the circumstances of the attack before it took place, and that Goupall had died following a series of threats issued between rival gangs in online music videos. Earlier this month, two young men who had appeared on popular rap DJ Tim Westwood’s YouTube channel were jailed for murdering a filmmaker. The Old Bailey heard how Devone Pusey, 20, and Kai Stewart, 18, knifed Dean Pascal-Modeste, 22, to death after making threats on drill rap videos. Also this month, it was reported that aspiring rapper Rhyhiem Ainsworth Barton was shot dead after he recorded a rap video during which he challenged a rival group.

To blame the recent spike in violent crime in the UK solely on drill rap would be ridiculous, but it would be equally as thoughtless to argue that the genre does not play a role in glamorising the use of guns and knives, or that it has not been directly linked to incidents in which online threats have resulted in the loss of life. Social media firms have a moral responsibility to offer drill artists freedom of expression as much as they should a legal one to take down material that might incite violence, but in many cases, drill rap videos that remain accessible on YouTube openly promote the use of extreme violence. The social, political and economic drivers behind rising violent crime in Britain are complex, but it would be foolish to ignore the pernicious effect drill rap is having on some young people.

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Dread Pirate Roberts 2.0 jailed for running second iteration of Silk Road dark web marketplace

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Dread Pirate Roberts 2.0 jailed for running second iteration of Silk Road

A jobless university drop-out from the UK city of Liverpool has been jailed after being convicted of running the Silk Road 2.0 dark web marketplace while collecting indecent images of children.

Liverpool Crown Court heard that Thomas White, 24, helped run the original Silk Road marketplace until it was closed down by FBI investigators in 2013.

Within a month of its shutdown, White had launched Silk Road 2.0, which like its predecessor was used by vendors to offer illicit items including drugs, weapons, cyber crime tools and stolen credit card details on the dark web.

White, who abandoned his accounting degree at Liverpool John Moores University after just one term, rented a £1,700 ($2,225)-a-month apartment on the waterfront in Liverpool city centre at the time of his arrest, despite ostensibly being unemployed.

While investigators from the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) said they could not be sure how much money White made while operating Silk Road 2.0, it is estimated that illegal goods worth some $96 million were sold on the platform, on which he would take a commission of between 1% and 5%.

During a raid on White’s apartment, police discovered a laptop computer under his bed, which was found to contain 464 indecent images of children in the most serious category.

It later emerged that White had discussed setting up a hidden website on which to publish child abuse material during an online chat with a Silk Road 2.0 administrator.

Like Ross Ulbricht, who was jailed for life with no parole for running the original Silk Road marketplace in 2015, White used the online alias Dread Pirate Roberts, a reference to a fictional character in the novel the Princess Bride by William Goldman.

White was sentenced to more than five years behind bars.

Speaking after he was jailed, Ian Glover from the NCA said: “White was a well-regarded member of the original Silk Road hierarchy.

“He used this to his advantage when the site was closed down.

“We believe he profited significantly from his crimes which will now be subject to a proceeds of crime investigation.”

Separately, one of Britain’s most senior cyber detectives has warned that Europeans gangs are targeting autistic gamers in the hope of turning them into the next generation of hackers.

Peter Goodman, National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) lead for cyber crime, told the Press Association that more than eight out of 10 (82%) of young people being enlisted by online criminals develop skills while gaming, with many of those targeted on the autistic spectrum.

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Customs authorities in China seize record 7.5 tonnes of ivory as wildlife crime crackdown continues

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customs authorities in China seize record 7.5 tonnes of ivory

The Chinese government yesterday announced that customs officers had seized nearly 7.5 tonnes of ivory in one of the largest such discoveries in recent years.

According to China’s customs administration, which is currently conducting a crackdown on wildlife-related crime, the elephant tusks were confiscated as a result of an operation targeting an international organised crime gang that had been involved in the illicit ivory trade for a number of years

Investigators are reported to have arrested 26 suspected members of the smuggling network behind the conspiracy after the ivory was found stored in a number of boxes that were being stored in a discussed factory in a remote town in the eastern province of Anhui last month.

Speaking at a news conference yesterday, officials said the seizure was made up of 2,748 elephant tusks.

The ivory is said to have been trafficked into the country from Africa in containers labelled as carrying wood.

Addressing reporters, Deputy Director General of China Customs Hu Wei said his officers have investigated 182 cases of wildlife trafficking so far this year.

He added that these operations resulted in the disruption of 27 organised criminal networks, the arrest of 171 suspected wildlife traffickers, as well as the seizure of more than 500 tonnes of smuggled illicit wildlife products, including nearly 8.5 tonnes of ivory.

Commending the Chinese government on the seizure, TRAFFIC, and NGO that monitors wildlife crime across the globe, said in a statement: “[We congratulate] Customs on their successful enforcement actions, which send a firm signal that trafficking of endangered species will not be tolerated.

“TRAFFIC also encourages the authorities to ensure full and thorough investigations are carried out and offers its assistance in efforts to clampdown on the persistent trafficking of ivory and other endangered species, and in the longer-term goal of changing consumer behaviour and reducing the demand for illegal wildlife products.”

China, which is the largest importer of elephant tusks on the planet, banned the sale of ivory in 2017.

As in some other Asian countries, ivory remains popular in China, where it is used in traditional medicines and is seen as a status symbol.

Back in February, a Chinese woman nicknamed the “Ivory Queen” was sentenced to 15 years behind bars in Tanzania after she was convicted of smuggling hundreds of elephant tusks to her country of birth.

Yang Fenglan, then aged 69, is said to have been responsible for the trafficking of tusks from as many as 400 elephants worth an estimated $2.5 million, in what was described at the time as one of the largest ivory smuggling operations ever discovered in Africa.

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Malaysia Airlines cabin crew member jailed for smuggling 2.5kgs of high-purity heroin into Australia

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Malaysia Airlines cabin crew member jailed

A flight attendant who worked for Malaysia Airlines has been jailed for more than five years after being caught attempting to smuggle packages of heroin into Australia.

In what a judge described as a “clumsily executed” operation, Fariq Aqbal Omar boarded a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Melbourne in May last year while carrying 2.5kgs of high-purity heroin.

The drugs were estimated to have a street value of more than A$3 million ($2.2 million).

After the flight on which he was travelling landed in Melbourne, large bulges visible underneath Omar’s clothing attracted the attention of customs officers.

Observing the 34-year-old Malaysian national using security cameras, border guards watched him visit a bathroom after alighting from his flight.

While using the facilities, he decanted the 10 blocks of pure heroin that had been stuffed inside his trouser pockets and underneath his vest into a suitcase, before exiting the airport terminal and boarding a transfer bus with other cabin crew members.

All of the flight attendants were then asked to return to the terminal building with their luggage to be searched, at which point Omar attempted to remove the drugs from his suitcase and return them to his pockets.

When investigators found the packages, Omar told them he believed they contained illegal tobacco, but later pleaded guilty to importing a commercial quantity of a border-controlled drug, claiming he was paid just A$500 to smuggle the heroin into Australia by a former colleague and another man.

Jailing Omar for five years and six months, Judge Wendy Wilmoth said it was incomprehensible that he had been persuaded to participate in the poorly thought-through smuggling attempt for such a small sum of money.

“Your actions have resulted in a very significant fall for you,” Australian broadcaster ABC News quotes Wilmoth as saying.

“This is something you should have considered before the importation.”

Omar will be eligible for parole after serving three years behind bars.

His lawyer, Thomas Mathew, told the New Straits Times: “Due to his limited involvement in the syndicate and minimum knowledge of its operations, our client’s role was at the very lowest of the range of the offences of this kind.

“Given his impeccable previous character, lack of prior offences in any country and the increased hardship that his imprisonment would involve due to the hardship his family are going through, the defence has sought the lowest sentence possible in the circumstances.”

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