The social media platform was ordered to reupload a video by their parent company Meta’s oversight board - which is semi-independent and dubbed the “supreme court” of Facebook and Instagram - of a drill video, which the London-based police force asked them to take down.
According to the Guardian newspaper, the law enforcement body believed the video, a short clip of the Song Secrets Not Safe by Chinx (OS) - involved a “veiled threat” - citing a 2017 shooting - and believed it would lead to “retaliatory violence”, prompting Instagram to take down 52 posts using the song by hand, along with 115 taken down by machine.
However, the board ruled this a misguided action as the video did not break any of Facebook or Instagram’s code of contact and defended its decision on grounds of free speech, equality and transparency. They believe these principles were violated by allowing the Met to silence a musician in secret.
They said :“While law enforcement can sometimes provide context and expertise, not every piece of content that law enforcement would prefer to have taken down should be taken down.
“It is therefore critical that Meta evaluates these requests independently, particularly when they relate to artistic expression from individuals in minority or marginalised groups for whom the risk of cultural bias against their content is acute.”
The board filed many freedom of information request into the Metropolitan Police and uncovered they had issued 286 requests to remove or review posts about drill music between June 2021 and 2022. According to their research, 255 of those requests led to content being yanked from the site and no other genres were targetted.
They added: “This intensive focus on one music genre among many that include reference to violence raises serious concerns of potential over-policing of certain communities.”
The board also sought to understand how Meta worked to protect free speech rights and asked to know its rules about flagging content.
The police force - which has come under fire for its treatment of ethnic minorities, women and LGBT people - did not cite any UK laws broken but rather argued the video had gone against Facebook and Instagram guidelines by being “potentially threatening or likely to contribute to imminent violence or physical harm”. However, no evidence was mentioned to back their claim.
In response, Meta said: “We do not remove content simply because law enforcement requests it – we take action if content is found to violate our policies or local law. As part of our robust review process, we assess whether a request is consistent with internationally-recognised standards on human rights, including due process, privacy, free expression and the rule of law.”