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Last Updated: Friday, 3 August 2007, 10:49 GMT 11:49 UK
Transcript: Children's Fight Club

Children's Fight Club

DATE: 30:07:07

JEREMY VINE: Good evening, I'm Jeremy Vine and this is Panorama. There's money to be made from showing videos of children fighting. Some of the websites endorsed by the great and the good.

TONY BLAIR: [On You Tube] Hello, thank you very much for visiting the Labour Party's You Tube Channel.

VINE: And used by major advertisers and the BBC. So who is regulating this?

[Violent scenes]

HAYDEN HEWITT: That is horrible.

RAPHAEL ROWE: it's on your website.

HEWITT: Yes, it is on our web.. there's a lot of horrible things on our website.

VINE: Bullying and yobbish behaviour are being given a global audience, so is it time to tame the Wild West of video entertainment? Millions of British children are spending their time watching homemade films posted on the hugely popular website. Many of them are purely innocent, but a lot take the phrase ?happy slapping' to a whole new violent level. So how do those involved justify their role as bullying is served up as entertainment?

JOE'S MOTHER: It's as if it's a video recorded in my head, it's all I see.

ROWE: Reluctant to show their faces, this family are afraid, victims of a disturbing new form of intimidation which has left them in despair.

MOTHER: Complete and utter nightmare.

ROWE: It started just three months ago when their 17 year old son was attacked by a gang of three teenagers, one armed with a knife.

JOE Assault Victim I think they were taking drugs so it must have just been like they'll get a kick out of that, just get a kick out of beating somebody up.

ROWE: His attackers filmed it all on a mobile phone. Within days it was up on a website called You Tube for the whole world to watch. It's easy to put a video on the internet using a mobile phone. First you film it like this. My name's Raphael Rowe and I'm investigating the phenomena of young teenagers using their mobile phones to video a fight and upload it on the internet. Then all you do is text it to one of several websites. Within minutes the whole world can watch it.

[Plays back recording] My name's Raphael Rose and I'm investigating the phenomena...

Source: Nielsen / Net Ratings

ROWE: Nearly one and a half million British kids and teenagers log onto the You Tube site every month and over a period of six weeks some of them watch Joe being taunted and beaten ? again, and again, and again. In fact, the video has been watched more than 1600 times. Although we're going to show other videos tonight, Joe doesn't want us to show his one.

JOE: It was after the first couple of punches that I was finally getting my vision properly back. I just seen like the outline of a mobile phone. So I just thought oh no, they're videoing this, or they're taking pictures of it or something, pictures of me like with my face all bloody, and so I knew they were doing something with the phone.. the mobile.

ROWE: His attackers posted their assault on You Tube, they filed it under 'entertainment'. Panorama has found it during the vast back catalogue of hundreds of other videos on the internet showing British children fighting or being attacked. Video, after video, after video showing assault, bullying and playground fights. Some are so violent we decided not to broadcast them. They all feature other victims like Joe, forced to relive their nightmares again and again and again.

JOE: I first learnt that my attack had been put up on You Tube, it was a boy I went to school with who came up to me and said that my attack has been put up on You Tube and like nearly everybody in the whole school in that whole year has seen it. People kept coming up to me and saying.. reminding me of the attack and it just.. it just hurt emotionally, because I kept picturing it. Every thing, every punch, and I see myself when I felt the blood like coming from my head.

ROWE: His parents weren't aware of the video until it was found by Panorama.

JOE'S FATHER: I saw my son repeatedly punched in the head and body by at least two other youths while another youth used a camera phone to film it, and the youth at the back of the phone was almost directing what was happening. My son didn't realise what was happening.

MOTHER: Even when I'm trying to tell someone about it and tell them what happened to him, it's like you see me now, I can't do it without crying, without being upset. It's just... it's been a complete and utter nightmare for me.

ROWE: Tonight Panorama has brought together three people who are going to try and come up with some solutions to this problem.


ROWE: Michelle Elliot is head of the anti-bullying charity Kidscape.

LORD TAYLOR: Well that's dreadful, the fact that children will be seeing these images.

ROWE: Lord Taylor of Warwick is a barrister and former judge.

FRANCESCA CROSS: It's the level of violence that worries me.

ROWE: A-level student Francesca Cross helps bullying victims at her London school.

MICHELLE: It's absolutely horrifying. It takes your breath away, particularly since all the violence in the background there are people laughing.

ROWE: Lord Taylor, let me ask you this first. If you were to see that clip you've just seen in a court of law, how serious would you take it?

TAYLOR: Those clips in a court of law signify a serious criminal offence, I'm talking about grievous bodily harm and the offender would go to prison, they would lose their liberty, there's no question about that. We have shots, clips of people having their heads kicked in literally, that could cause brain damage or even death, and that merits imprisonment.

ROWE: Our panel is shocked by the number of videos which show spectators holding up mobile phones to film the fights.

MICHELLE: I think the people who are holding mobile phones and who are shouting and screaming and encouraging are actually making the situation much worse because that is egging on the people who are involved in the fighting.

FRANCESCA: It's quite frightening really because these kids filming it, it's a laugh, it's a bit of fun, it's... I mean it's horrible but they don't see it as a bad thing.

[violent scenes]

ROWE: And I was to find more evidence that the reaction of some people who witness assaults is to get out the camera rather than help. I spoke to a 13 year old girl who's identity I can't reveal for legal reasons. She wanted to tell me about a recent incident in a local park.

Can you first describe to me what happened to you?

GIRL: Some of these girls came over to us who we knew.. we know about two of them and they just started arguing with us and then she just started hitting me and pulling me in, and kick on me and that, and then stood on me. And then she got off me and walked away and I stood up and then she just came back at me and then hit me and punched me and pulled me down to the floor and then some girl got her off me and we just walked away.

ROWE: How many people were videoing it?

GIRL: About 10 to 15.

ROWE: How many?

GIRL: 10 to 15.

ROWE: What were they saying, the people that were videoing the attack?

GIRL: "Go on, do her, kill her."

ROWE: What do you think should happen to those people who videoed what happened to you?

GIRL: I think they should be prosecuted because it's just mean for videoing someone getting battered.

Hi, I'm Anthony Byers. I'm 21 and I live in Carlisle.

ROWE: And once a fight or an attack has been videoed this is the sort of person who likes to post them up on the internet. This is a fight that Anthony posted onto You Tube 4 months ago. It shows a prolonged attack on a teenage girl by three others.

Why did you upload this sort of stuff on You Tube?

ANTHONY BYERS: Just for the laugh, so your friends can come and have a laugh with you and watch it like. Me and my friends we've got this rating thing on You Tube, so it rates your videos for you and how many people have watched it and all that. And like I'm in competition with my friend and he's going to beat us at see how many views you can get on You Tube. But I think I'm winning him because I've got more views on my videos.

ROWE: And what sort of videos on yours are getting more views than his?

BYERS: The violence once, the ones with the fighting.

ROWE: Anthony's video of the attack in the street joins hundreds of others seen by kids every day on the internet.

LOUISE NICHOLAS: My name is Louise Nicholas. I'm 15 and my father fell asleep, he must have been drunk or something. He were on the tram but they set him on fire and they were dragging him around, and then he woke up then and he was all like burnt and that.

ROWE: We picked a typical group of British schoolchildren to find out what sort of online videos they've been exposed to over the last few months. They're at Willows High School in Cardiff. They've got their mobile phones and they're computer literate.

ROSE ANN EDWARDS: My name is Rose Ann Edwin. I'm 15. There was a big pole, they broke the pole down and they started hitting this boy with the pole and it ended up going through him, and it was disgusting.

LYDIA THOMPSON: My name is Lydia Thompson, I'm 15. There was a girl riding on a bike and she was just riding down the road and these two boys jumped out and they hit her in the face with a pole and she fell off her bike.

ETIENNE: My name is Etienne, I'm 13. The worst video I've seen is when they're fighting and this boy just got his head and whacked it on the wall and they started all laughing at him and everything. But it wasn't that funny really.

ROWE: Recently Willows High School found itself at the centre of a row over violent videos on You Tube. A pupil got into an argument with a woman who worked in a local fish and chip shop. There was a confrontation on the pavement. The whole thing was filmed by another child and it ended up on You Tube where the rest of the world could watch. Just another part of a constant stream of violent images which head teacher Mall Davies is powerless to protect his pupils from.

MAL DAVIES: If you think about your time back in school, you probably saw a fight or two now and again, but.. you know, just every time that you want to flip your phone you can see another piece of violence, and another piece of violence, and I am fearful of the incremental gain that those scenes of violence can have, that they just step up each time. So youngsters can become more violent.

ROWE: And it's violence which is a speciality of our next website. It's cofounder lives in Manchester. It's called Lively and it's videos are mainly of war footage. Even the Ministry of Defence puts videos up here and this has brought it attention from high places.

TONY BLAIR: Take a website like Live Leak which has become popular with soldiers from both sides of the divide in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

ROWE: But Live Leak has another sort of video it likes putting up. Attacks on kids and teenagers as well as fights. Like this 15 year old girl being kicked unconscious in a takeaway in Northampton. She suffered a detached retina in this assault. She was in hospital for three days afterwards. Live Leak claims to vet all its videos before putting them up. This one shows two London schoolgirls aged about 13. A fight starts and soon one of the girls is getting the worst of it. Within 60 seconds one girl collapses to the ground. It looks like blood coming from her head. Some in the crowd are jubilant. We showed our panel this video showing the two black girls fighting. Then we showed them the comments that viewers had written underneath. It was sympathy for the victims but racist insults spread across page after page.

MICHELLE ELLIOT Kidscape There are comments about sending people back to Africa. There are comments from people who are saying, you know, this kind of a cool thing. I mean it's very... it's very disturbing.

ROWE: Lord Taylor?

Lord TAYLOR of Warwick Barrister & former Judge What there isn't here is any sort of sympathetic comment. There's no concern for the girls at all, it's racist, it's just evil, it's bringing out the worst in people's, as Michelle said.

FRANCESCA CROSS A-level student There's no one leaping to anyone's defences, no one even saying "She's bleeding" for goodness sake.

HEWITT: [Filmed recording on mobile] My name is Hayden Hewitt and I'm one of the cofounders of liveleak.com.

ROWE: This is the man behind Live Leak. His site sometimes gets over 600,000 viewers a day, bigger than the circulation of some national newspapers. We showed him some of the videos that were on his own site.

HAYDEN HEWITT Co-founder Live Leak Obviously we're seeing two younger teenage girls having a fight, while someone else films it. Others cheering them on. It's an incredibly brutal assault and someone finally pulls her away. Where can I begin about what's horrible about this video?

ROWE: It is horrible, isn't it.

HEWITT: Of course it's horrible.

ROWE: It's on your website.

HEWITT: Yes, it is on our website, there's a lot of horrible things on our website.

ROWE: Does that not make you think ?that's not going to stay on my website'? There's another one coming up. I don't know if you've seen these before?

HEWITT: No, these are actually new to me.

ROWE; Just describe to me what you're seeing as well Hayden.

HEWITT: Another girl hitting one and again two younger teenage girls fighting. All the friends standing round watching. Some probably cheering on. She's been hurt.

ROWE: Do you not have somebody kind of looking at...

HEWITT: Yes, every video is looked at.

ROWE: So somebody has seen...

HEWITT: Somebody has seen that and approved that.

ROWE: How could that be approved? I'm just talking to you...

HEWITT: Yeah, yeah, absolutely, I'm not a.... like I say, it's not about me morally defending anything here. This is happening and we have to take a stance of look, all this is happening. This is real life. This is going on, we're going to show it.

ROWE: Live Leak claims it has a no tolerance approach to racism. We showed Hayden Hewitt the same racist comments we showed our panel.

HEWITT: Obviously our moderators have missed that. This has gone through, a member obviously hasn't flagged it. That would normally be at least a warning.

ROWE: Nearly every comment has a racist....

HEWITT: Yeah, there's another one like that.

ROWE: All of them are in some way racist and.. you know, another page. This particular clip, this footage has been on the site for months.

HEWITT: Since February, I can see that, yeah.

ROWE; So the material that I've shown you today, and both of those clips show you I think one girl hitting the ground, out cold. I'm asking you will you take that material off.

HEWITT: No, no, I will not be going home after this and asking that. I will be going home and asking for somebody to look at the comments section of that for sure, but we wont be removing that material today. No, cos if we remove those two, we've got to remove all of it. It's as simple as that. And I am sorry if that offends some people but that's pretty much how it is.

ROWE: In fact the comments weren't removed, so is Hayden Hewitt doing anything wrong? His site is registered in Virginia and not subject to UK law which is in any case weak and untested in relation to online violence. That hasn't gone unnoticed among those who enjoy internet violence. Rival gangs of teenagers in Liverpool use You Tube to brag about their criminality and hatred of the police. It's a blatant challenge to whoever polices the site. You Tube has a complaints system. Viewers can ask to have offensive videos taken down. Panorama tested this to try and get a dozen gang videos removed. All but a few stayed up. Is anyone policing You Tube? Not as we know it. You Tube told us how many staff were actively looking for offensive material. The answer? Zero.

So nobody polices the website?

RACHEL WHETSTONE: No, that's not true. The community polices the website.

ROWE: Well the community flag material that they consider to be...

RACHEL WHETSTONE Google Yes, and they would... if you spoke to anyone who's part of the You Tube community they would consider that very, very strongly. So they'd be policing it and they would find your notion that nobody polices the website to be completely wrong.

ROWE: This policy dates from the days when You Tube was a cheap and cheerful home of amateur entertainment and founders Chad Hurley and Steve Chen sold out to Google for 1.6 billion dollars. Google is worth over 170 billion dollars and has deals with the likes of the BBC. Despite going corporate it still leaves responsibility for policing to what it continues to call its ?community'.

RACHEL: It's not a question of how many people it employs, or how much revenue people make, or how many people You Tube employs. What we do is what we think is right, and we don't think it's right. You're actively policing and pre-screening is somebody else's censorship.

ROWE: What do you say to those individuals who have been the victims of violent assaults, who have been videoed and uploaded on You Tube and over 1700 people may have watched that video and not one of those community members decided to flag it and take it down.

RACHEL: I think the people who've been the victims of violent assault it's a tragedy and I think there are many people in life today who are who are victims of violent assault, and the fact that it may be uploaded onto a website I can see could be something that would make it much worse. The reality is that most of those videos do get flagged and if it is violent assault and if the police come to us and say they would like to prosecute someone because it was violent assault, we will cooperate with them if they've gone through the proper procedures.

ROWE: You Tube says 99% of flagged videos are reviewed within 25 minutes, although we've found some violent videos were reviewed and still stayed up. Norman England is one of a number of police officers who are investigating crimes which have been filmed and posted up on websites.

NORMAN ENGLAND: The assault first of all took the form of the offender threatening the other person for saying something about him and his family, but the person videoing it was then encouraging that it took a more violent form.

ROWE: Inspector England sent You Tube an email asking them to take the attack video off the site and he demanded details about who had uploaded it.

ENGLAND: They took it off the website when I requested them but I also requested that they told me the details of the person that uploaded it.

ROWE: You Tube will do that on receipt of legal paperwork, but surely it would be easier to sweep the site for violence and report any evidence of crime to the police.

Is that something you should do?

RACHEL WHETSTONE Google No, we believe it's the job of the police to come to us when a crime has been committed, and we will comply with their request and we will help them with their request, and we believe that's the right way for things to be done. You know, it's up to the police when a criminal assault has taken place to take action, and I think that.. you know, we are very, very happy to help them do that. But I think that the balance of responsibility is with the police.

ROWE: Senior police officers disagree. They want the sites to search for violent images and contact them.

Deputy Chief Constable BRIAN MOORE Assoc of Chief Police Officers I think that You Tube and companies like them are absolutely responsible for policing themselves. If they think that the police think should be doing this, let me tell them through you that that is not our position. They are responsible for what is on their products. They are making profit from this. The taxpayer should not be clearing up the images. This is the exactly an issue for the company and I want them to be responsible in terms of their attitude in trying to put this right.

ROWE: What helps fund all the websites we've featured is advertising. Live Leak has ads from Carphone Warehouse to help pay its overheads. Then there's another website called ?Pure Street Fights'. Big name brands are advertising here, right alongside graphic violence showing children's fights. Mobile phone companies, high street shops. We contacted every firm advertising on the site. A few companies told us to talk to this man. He represents the advertising middle men who place internet ads on behalf of big name brands.

We've put together a number of pages that we printed off from the website that show some of the biggest British brands being advertised on websites where children are uploading videos of themselves fighting. In other words these sites glorify children fighting. I want you to take a look at this. You can see some of the biggest brands this country knows: BT, Carphone Warehouse, O2, Orange, Virgin.

GUY PHILLIPSON: This is pretty lamentable, isn't it.

ROWE: What's their responsibility in terms of making sure that their brand is not advertised on sites like these?

GUY PHILLIPSON Internet Advertising Bureau I think they're genuinely surprised. They didn't understand what happened in the chain for them to end up on this site. And online advertising is a fairly new science, you know, and it's grown a lot in the last couple of years. And there is an education process to be done.

ROWE: Will you be investigating that?

PHILLIPSON: Yes, we'll be investigating those directly.. investigating those directly and we're grateful that you brought them to our attention.

ROWE: All the ads we've shown tonight have been removed from the site. Several companies have been so embarrassed they've sacked the firms who placed the ads. They told us they were unaware which sites they were advertising on. After a day's deliberation our panel has finished their work. They're using their experience as a lawyer, the head of a children's charity and a pupil who helps bullying victims to come up with some solutions to this problem. First they say You Tube's decision to rely on its users to police the site isn't working.

FRANCESCA: The sites hosting these videos need to police and to monitor what is being put up there because if they don't, it's just going to go uncovered and everyone will... it'll just escalate.

ROWE: Next they want the law clarified. It should be made a specific criminal offence to film and upload a fight.

At the moment that's where the loophole is. It's very difficult to know what to charge that person with. I think that's what we need to look at to deter people from filming this sort of filth.

ROWE: Finally they want the issue taken more seriously by everyone, starting with the websites.

MICHELLE: They need to be educated. Parents need to be educated, the kids need to be educated about what's going on, and the websites have got a huge responsibility. Take it down. That's all.

ROWE: Remember these gang videos we tried to get taken down from You Tube? We used their own complaints system to report them. Almost all of them stayed up. We then took the same video straight to Google, You Tube's management instead. We asked them if they stood by these decisions. We were in for a surprise.

[Scenes of violence and criminality]

They admitted this one should have come down when we flagged it up, and this one, and this one, but then they told us this one was okay and was staying up, and this one, and this one. The Home Office says there are existing laws under which people like Anthony can be prosecuted. In reality it doesn't happen. The Crown Prosecution Service says it's not aware of anyone being charged. Meanwhile new images of children being battered and shamed are being uploaded for our entertainment. In Glasgow we used You Tube's complaint system to get the video of Joe's attack taken down. It had been up for six weeks. Nobody else had bothered to complain about it. The attackers left the family too scared to show their faces. But they wanted to send a message to the owners of these websites.

JOE'S MOTHER: How would they feel if it was one of their children, their son or their daughter up there. Would they allow that to go through? I don't think they would. So why allow it for anybody else to go through?

VINE: Raphael Rowe reporting. We will keep you across developments in this story and if anybody is prosecuted for uploading violent videos we'll let you know.

Next week, the cost of keeping Britain dry. Kate Silverton asks how much the summer floods have cost the UK and how much more we are prepared to pay to defend the country from future downpours.

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