NSW Police Are Trying Really Hard To Ban Drill On Social Media
"NSW Police will take action in relation to content that contains material inciting violence or criminal activity."
New South Wales Police are attempting to force social media platforms to remove drill and rap songs — and their associated social media posts — that they claim are fuelling Sydney’s ongoing gang violence crisis.
Gang violence across Sydney has dramatically escalated in recent months, resulting in the deaths of multiple high-profile figures including Mejid Hamzy and Mahmoud ‘Brownie’ Ahmad. And — as we’ve seen in the US and the UK — police are keen to blame the rise in gang violence on music.
NSW Police Have Previously Cracked Down On Individual Groups
Prominent Mt Druitt drill group OneFour — one of a number of drill groups under NSW Police scrutiny — were effectively banned from performing in Australia back in 2019 after being forced to cancel a national tour after NSW Police “provided advice” to venues.
“OneFour will be the first Australian band effectively banned from performing in their own country, following confirmation that all venues for their planned national tour have been cancelled,” the group wrote in a statement at the time. “There have been no arrests or violence at any previous OneFour concerts. Despite this pressure has been put on venues by police not to proceed with a near sell-out national tour.”
The group were also unable to attend the 2019 ARIA Awards after similar advice was provided to the Star Casino.
NSW Police Are Effectively Trying To Enforce Social Media Censorship
But now NSW Police have taken it a step further and are trying to force social media platforms like YouTube and Snapchat from hosting drill music and content.
“Drill music and songs (in some cases) are being weaponised to basically inflame a conflict with another side. We are still seeing that trend where drill rapping is being used to talk about crimes being committed for purposes of antagonising an opposition,’’ Acting Assistant Commissioner Jason Weinstein told the Daily Telegraph in a front-page editorial entitled Rap On The Knuckles: Cops Demand Tech Giants Tune Out ‘Violent Music.’
“We don’t have the power to stop anything such as concerts or songs or what people post. So it goes back to the moderators like YouTube, Snapchat and those social media platforms. They have certain expectations and their own policies around showing violence and things that can be posted and can’t be.
“So if those companies are doing their due diligence, that should put a stop to the incitement of stuff.”
In a statement provided to Junkee, NSW Police confirmed it will take action in the case of violence or criminal activity inciting material.
“We rely on the moderators of social media platforms to uphold their own policies around violent content; however, NSW Police will take action in relation to content that contains material inciting violence or criminal activity,” a NSW Police spokesperson told Junkee.
Australia’s Crackdown Mirrors The UK
While drill rap originated in Chicago, it has become hugely popular in the UK — and police have been quick to declare their own war on the music in retaliation.
In 2019, two drill rappers — Skengdo and AM — were sentenced to nine months in prison (suspended for two years) for breaching a gang injunction issued against them. The pair breached the injunction by simply performing their song ‘Attempted 1.0’ at a concert in London.
Under the injunction, the pair were banned from performing or broadcasting songs with lyrics mentioning rival crews, rappers in rival crews or describing “intrusions on to any other gang or group’s perceived territory” — which includes their postcodes.
At the time, the Index on Censorship alleged that this was the first time in British legal history that anyone had been sentenced to prison for performing a song.
While no Australian musician has copped a prison sentence for performing a song yet, it is easy to see how NSW Police’s crackdown on drill rap is following a similar path. But while NSW Police accuse these groups of inciting and glorifying gang violence, many argue that these musicians are simply creating art from their own lived experiences — and should be free to do so.
“I have a story. I’ve lived through an alleged [gang] war. I’m here to tell my side of the story. I’m not telling anyone else to do it. But this is my story and I have the right to tell it, so if you want to listen, then listen,” artist Ay Huncho told the Sydney Morning Herald recently.
Huncho, who is allegedly linked to the Alameddine crime family and is facing a number of charges he intends to defend at trial, told the SMH that people can learn from his music and avoid following a similar path.
“People can learn from it in that they can ask themselves, ‘do I want to be part of this life?’ My life hasn’t been fucking butterflies and rainbows. Walking out of your house, you feel like something could happen to you,” said Huncho. “Cops knock on my door every day, they raid my house once a month so my mum and my sisters have to sleep with extra clothing in case they kick our door down. It’s definitely not a life you want to live.”
The War On Drill Fails To Address The Root Cause Of The Problem
While drill may be an easy scapegoat for NSW Police to blame Sydney’s gang violence problem on, we’ve already seen this fail in the UK.
Civil rights activists in the UK have repeatedly criticised the over-policing of music for being a punitive and ineffective way to resolve violence.
“The real reason the police, the judiciary, and lawmakers can abuse their position and target these artists in this manner is because they don’t have a clue how to stop the violence,” civil rights activist Stafford Scott told The Guardian after Skengdo and AM’s sentencing. “They’re focused on tackling the symptoms and not the root causes of black youth disaffection, which is caused by marginalisation, isolation, deprivation and lack of aspiration, borne out of a lack of opportunity, inspiration and hope.”
A lengthy study on the link between drill music and gang violence found that while the music could be part of the problem, it is wrong to look at the music in isolation of other — more important — determining factors.
“We’re not having a conversation about austerity, poverty and institutional racism. We’re just saying drill music is the reason why young people are violent and continuing that narrative is quite dangerous,” said criminologist Craig Pinkey in a study published on the subject.