Social Media Hub to tackle Serious Gang Violence

Reference code: 
PCD 545
Date signed: 
12 March 2019
Authorisation name: 
Sophie Linden, Deputy Mayor, Policing and Crime

Executive summary

This paper requests approval to draw down approved funding of £1.4m for a bid offered by the Home Office in October 2018 to set up and run a Social Media Hub proof of concept to tackle serious gang violence nationally. The Hub will bring together a dedicated team of police officers and staff to take action against online material, focusing on investigative, disruption and enforcement work against specific gang targets, as well as making referrals to social media companies so illegal and harmful content can be taken down. 
It will have a London focus initially due to the volume of gangs and therefore content available, which in turn allows for full assessment of what works as best practice. It will introduce other forces content for Open Source assessment as the concept develops.


The Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime is recommended to: 
•        Approve a national Social Media Hub proof of concept that will allow more suitable resourcing dedicated to effectively tackling gang violence driven through inflammatory content, and tackle the linked serious criminality by exploiting technology and new approaches. This will start with a London focus before widening to other metropolitan forces.
•    Approve that funding already offered for £1.4m from the Home Office can be drawn down, with mutually agreeable outcomes, that it is appropriate and will be sufficient to pay staffing and officer costs to those seconded to the hub.
•    Approve that the exit strategy, on completion of the proof of concept, is delivered across Q4 FY 2019/20 to ensure no ongoing costs to the MPS or other UK Forces beyond that period.

Non-confidential facts and advice to the Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime (DMPC)

1.    Introduction and background

1.1.    The funding is to enable the creation of a new hub under the NPCC banner that seeks to build on the lessons learnt of Operation Domain, and service wider demands across the MPS and larger UK metropolitan forces. It seeks to:
•    Build capabilities, by integrating expertise cross agency and industry; 
•    Develop innovations such as maximising use of machine learning and AI; 
•    Suppress and prevent real life serious violence.

1.2.    The social media hub will initially look to target the highest harm gangs in London using both Open Source intelligence and direct operational support using other tactics. It will quickly introduce processing of Open Source content for other forces if the AI options are successfully tested in a linked proof of concept. These tools will then be mirrored in the Hub.

2.    Issues for consideration

2.1.    The scale of the threat nationally is unclear as there are no joined up systems, processes or partnerships in place. This proof of concept seeks to answer the unknown and provide:
•    Advice and guidance: law enforcement (forces, ROCUs) will gain access to the most effective ways of disrupting and dealing with online violent content;   
•    Enhanced understanding of how gangs’ on- and off-line activities interact, including with wider criminal networks; 
•    The work of the social media hub is likely to be an important element in meeting expectations contained within the final version of the Online Harms White Paper.  
•    Prevention and suppression of real violence. 

3.    Financial Comments

3.1.    The cost of this work, £1.4m, covers staffing and support costs and will be funded through the approved bid to the Home Office.

3.2.    A phased exit strategy in Q4 2020 will ensure no ongoing costs to any MPS or other forces funding, unless any such strategy is superseded by further Home Office funding to embed the concept for a further timescale.

4.    Legal Comments

4.1.    Paragraph 4.8 of the Scheme of Delegation and Consent grants DMPC delegated authority to approve ‘Bids for grant funding made and all offers made of grant funding; and/or where appropriate a strategy for grant giving’.

5.    GDPR and Data Privacy 

5.1.    The MPS is subject to the requirements and conditions placed on it as a 'State' body to comply with the European Convention of Human Rights and the Data Protection Act (DPA) 2018. Both legislative requirements place an obligation on the MPS to process personal data fairly and lawfully in order to safeguard the rights and freedoms of individuals.

5.2.    Under Article 35 of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and Section 57 of the DPA 2018, Data Protection Impact Assessments (DPIA) become mandatory for organisations with technologies and processes that are likely to result in a high risk to the rights of the data subjects.

5.3.    The Information Assurance and Information Rights units within MPS will be consulted at all stages to ensure the project meets its compliance requirements.

5.4.    The project does not currently use personally identifiable data of members of the public, as will not be in operational use (and therefore gathering data) until May 2019. Therefore there are no current GDPR issues to be considered, however pre-launch a DPIA will be completed via the MPS Data Protection Officer.

6.    Equality Comments

6.1.    An equalities impact assessment (EIA) will be carried out as part of the proof of concept. Any impact will be fully assessed and any mitigation put in place before further roll out is considered

7.    Background/supporting papers

7.1.    Report

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