Two Scottish teenagers have been arrested over claims they hacked into the Metropolitan Police’s website and posted a series of bizarre messages.

The country’s largest police force was hit by a cyber attack in July and a series of tweets were sent from its verified account, which has more than 1.2 million followers.

A stream of unusual emails were also sent from the force’s press bureau.

The arrested teenagers are aged 18 and 19 and from Lossiemouth and Glasgow.

They have been charged with carrying out the alleged hack by Police Scotland.

President Donald Trump used the incident to attack London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

Quoting a tweet from right-wing commentator Katie Hopkins, which said officers had “lost control of London streets” and “lost control of their Twitter account too”, Trump wrote: “With the incompetent Mayor of London, you will never have safe streets.”

Scotland Yard previously confirmed its website had “been subject to unauthorised access”.

The force said it used an online provider called MyNewsDesk to issue news releases and said “unauthorised messages” appeared on its website, Twitter account and in emails sent to subscribers.

The tweets, which have been deleted, contained offensive language and mentioned the names of several people.

One of them called for the release of drill rap artist Digga D – real name Rhys Herbert – who was jailed last year for being part of a gang with machetes.

The posts also included messages such as “no comment get my lawyer” and “what you gonna do phone the police?”.

A Police Scotland spokesman said: “Two men, aged 18 and 19, from the Lossiemouth and Glasgow areas respectively, have been arrested and charged in connection with unauthorised access and publication of content on the Metropolitan Police Service’s news platform on Friday 19 July 2019.

“A report will be submitted to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.”

Two Scottish teenagers have been arrested over claims they hacked into the Metropolitan Police’s website and posted a series of bizarre messages.

The country’s largest police force was hit by a cyber attack in July and a series of tweets were sent from its verified account, which has more than 1.2 million followers.

A stream of unusual emails were also sent from the force’s press bureau.

The arrested teenagers are aged 18 and 19 and from Lossiemouth and Glasgow.

They have been charged with carrying out the alleged hack by Police Scotland.

President Donald Trump used the incident to attack London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

Quoting a tweet from right-wing commentator Katie Hopkins, which said officers had “lost control of London streets” and “lost control of their Twitter account too”, Trump wrote: “With the incompetent Mayor of London, you will never have safe streets.”

Scotland Yard previously confirmed its website had “been subject to unauthorised access”.

The force said it used an online provider called MyNewsDesk to issue news releases and said “unauthorised messages” appeared on its website, Twitter account and in emails sent to subscribers.

The tweets, which have been deleted, contained offensive language and mentioned the names of several people.

One of them called for the release of drill rap artist Digga D – real name Rhys Herbert – who was jailed last year for being part of a gang with machetes.

The posts also included messages such as “no comment get my lawyer” and “what you gonna do phone the police?”.

A Police Scotland spokesman said: “Two men, aged 18 and 19, from the Lossiemouth and Glasgow areas respectively, have been arrested and charged in connection with unauthorised access and publication of content on the Metropolitan Police Service’s news platform on Friday 19 July 2019.

“A report will be submitted to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.”

As if piling up sandbags before a flood, Apple was well prepared to face a backlash over its decision to remove an app used by Hong Kong protesters.

But the firm’s carefully-worded statement offering its reasoning has left China watchers, politicians – and some famed Apple supporters – wholly unconvinced.

“Apple’s decision to cave to Communist China’s demands is unacceptable,” tweeted Rick Scott, a Republican senator for Florida.

“Putting profits above the human rights and dignity of the people of Hong Kong is wrong. No ifs, ands or buts about it.”

Late on Wednesday, the firm started briefing journalists on the move, pushing its view that the HKmap.live was being “used in ways that endanger law enforcement and residents”.

On Thursday morning, Apple chief executive Tim Cook posted an internal memo.

“It’s out of my great respect for the work you do every day that I want to share the way we went about making this decision,” he wrote.

“Over the past several days we received credible information, from the Hong Kong Cybersecurity and Technology Crime Bureau, as well as from users in Hong Kong, that the app was being used maliciously to target individual officers for violence and to victimize individuals and property where no police are present. This use put the app in violation of Hong Kong law.

“Similarly, widespread abuse clearly violates our App Store guidelines barring personal harm.”

Long-time Apple commentator John Gruber wrote of Mr Cook’s email: “I can’t recall an Apple memo or statement that crumbles so quickly under scrutiny.”

‘Innocent passers-by’

Apple has yet to provide any additional information about those claimed incidents. Charles Mok, a Hong Kong legislator who represents the IT industry in the territory, posted a letter to Mr Cook on Twitter.

“There are numerous cases of innocent passers-by in the neighbourhood injured by the Kong Kong Police Force’s excessive force in crowd dispersal operations,” he wrote.

“The user-generated information shared using HKmap.live in fact helps citizens avoid areas where pedestrians not involved in any criminal activities might be subjected to police brutality which many human rights organisations such as Amnesty International have observed.”

Mr Mok went on to argue that users on major social networks, such as Facebook or Twitter, also share information about police activity – but were not being held to the same standard.

“We Hongkongers will definitely look closely at whether Apple chooses to uphold its commitment to free expression and other basic human rights, or become an accomplice for Chinese censorship and oppression.”

Apple has not responded to the letter.

Censored South Park

Apple’s decision comes against a backdrop of major American firms being seen as bowing to political pressure from Beijing.

In just the past week, the NBA grovelled its way around a tweet from a team executive supporting the protests, while video games published Activision Blizzard banned e-sports competitor Ng Wai “Blitzchung” Chung for showing his support for the movement.

And Google removed a role-playing game called “Revolution of Our Times” from its app store after deeming it violated its policies on depicting “sensitive events” (the player plays the role of a Hong Kong protester). According to the Wall Street Journal, Hong Kong authorities had contacted Google with concerns about that app – though the company has said it decided to take action before any communication took place.

One bucking of the trend, however, came via Tim Sweeney, chief executive of Epic Games, the firm behind online multiplayer game Fortnite.

“Epic supports everyone’s right to speak freely,” he wrote on Twitter, in response to a question about gamers voicing support for Hong Kong protesters. Chinese tech giant Tencent owns 40% of the firm.

“China players of Fortnite are free to criticize the US or criticize Epic just as equally as all others,” Mr Sweeney said.

In characteristically astute timing, an episode of Comedy Central’s South Park earlier this month led Chinese censors to “delete virtually every clip, episode and online discussion of the show from Chinese streaming services, social media and even fan pages”, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

The episode featured four of the show’s main characters working on a film script that gets constantly altered so that it could be distributed in China.

“Well you know what they say,” the film’s director in the show says, “You gotta lower your ideals of freedom if you wanna suck on the warm teat of China.”

Exerting power

In Apple’s case that means revenues that are on course to exceed $40bn this year – almost a fifth of the firm’s total global sales. Apple’s reliance on Chinese manufacturing means the relationship goes far deeper than just local sales. The firm has 10,000 direct employees in the firm; the economy around Apple’s presence in China is responsible for around 5m jobs.

What happens next depends on the extent to which China feels its hardline stance is working – and there are indications officials are becoming wary. According to reporting in the New York Times, Beijing is concerned its actions are drawing more attention to the protests and harming the country’s standing on the global stage, adding yet more tension to relations with the US as trade talks restart in Washington.

The rows have also bolstered concerns that China has few qualms when it comes to making demands of companies both based in the Communist state, as well as those who merely want to do business there.

“What would Huawei do if they were the dominant 5G provider for a country, and that country’s leaders said the wrong thing?” speculated Elliott Zaagman, who covers Chinese business and investment,

_____

Follow Dave Lee on Twitter @DaveLeeBBC

Do you have more information about this or any other technology story? You can reach Dave directly and securely through encrypted messaging app Signal on: +1 (628) 400-7370

As if piling up sandbags before a flood, Apple was well prepared to face a backlash over its decision to remove an app used by Hong Kong protesters.

But the firm’s carefully-worded statement offering its reasoning has left China watchers, politicians – and some famed Apple supporters – wholly unconvinced.

“Apple’s decision to cave to Communist China’s demands is unacceptable,” tweeted Rick Scott, a Republican senator for Florida.

“Putting profits above the human rights and dignity of the people of Hong Kong is wrong. No ifs, ands or buts about it.”

Late on Wednesday, the firm started briefing journalists on the move, pushing its view that the HKmap.live was being “used in ways that endanger law enforcement and residents”.

On Thursday morning, Apple chief executive Tim Cook posted an internal memo.

“It’s out of my great respect for the work you do every day that I want to share the way we went about making this decision,” he wrote.

“Over the past several days we received credible information, from the Hong Kong Cybersecurity and Technology Crime Bureau, as well as from users in Hong Kong, that the app was being used maliciously to target individual officers for violence and to victimize individuals and property where no police are present. This use put the app in violation of Hong Kong law.

“Similarly, widespread abuse clearly violates our App Store guidelines barring personal harm.”

Long-time Apple commentator John Gruber wrote of Mr Cook’s email: “I can’t recall an Apple memo or statement that crumbles so quickly under scrutiny.”

‘Innocent passers-by’

Apple has yet to provide any additional information about those claimed incidents. Charles Mok, a Hong Kong legislator who represents the IT industry in the territory, posted a letter to Mr Cook on Twitter.

“There are numerous cases of innocent passers-by in the neighbourhood injured by the Kong Kong Police Force’s excessive force in crowd dispersal operations,” he wrote.

“The user-generated information shared using HKmap.live in fact helps citizens avoid areas where pedestrians not involved in any criminal activities might be subjected to police brutality which many human rights organisations such as Amnesty International have observed.”

Mr Mok went on to argue that users on major social networks, such as Facebook or Twitter, also share information about police activity – but were not being held to the same standard.

“We Hongkongers will definitely look closely at whether Apple chooses to uphold its commitment to free expression and other basic human rights, or become an accomplice for Chinese censorship and oppression.”

Apple has not responded to the letter.

Censored South Park

Apple’s decision comes against a backdrop of major American firms being seen as bowing to political pressure from Beijing.

In just the past week, the NBA grovelled its way around a tweet from a team executive supporting the protests, while video games published Activision Blizzard banned e-sports competitor Ng Wai “Blitzchung” Chung for showing his support for the movement.

And Google removed a role-playing game called “Revolution of Our Times” from its app store after deeming it violated its policies on depicting “sensitive events” (the player plays the role of a Hong Kong protester). According to the Wall Street Journal, Hong Kong authorities had contacted Google with concerns about that app – though the company has said it decided to take action before any communication took place.

One bucking of the trend, however, came via Tim Sweeney, chief executive of Epic Games, the firm behind online multiplayer game Fortnite.

“Epic supports everyone’s right to speak freely,” he wrote on Twitter, in response to a question about gamers voicing support for Hong Kong protesters. Chinese tech giant Tencent owns 40% of the firm.

“China players of Fortnite are free to criticize the US or criticize Epic just as equally as all others,” Mr Sweeney said.

In characteristically astute timing, an episode of Comedy Central’s South Park earlier this month led Chinese censors to “delete virtually every clip, episode and online discussion of the show from Chinese streaming services, social media and even fan pages”, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

The episode featured four of the show’s main characters working on a film script that gets constantly altered so that it could be distributed in China.

“Well you know what they say,” the film’s director in the show says, “You gotta lower your ideals of freedom if you wanna suck on the warm teat of China.”

Exerting power

In Apple’s case that means revenues that are on course to exceed $40bn this year – almost a fifth of the firm’s total global sales. Apple’s reliance on Chinese manufacturing means the relationship goes far deeper than just local sales. The firm has 10,000 direct employees in the firm; the economy around Apple’s presence in China is responsible for around 5m jobs.

What happens next depends on the extent to which China feels its hardline stance is working – and there are indications officials are becoming wary. According to reporting in the New York Times, Beijing is concerned its actions are drawing more attention to the protests and harming the country’s standing on the global stage, adding yet more tension to relations with the US as trade talks restart in Washington.

The rows have also bolstered concerns that China has few qualms when it comes to making demands of companies both based in the Communist state, as well as those who merely want to do business there.

“What would Huawei do if they were the dominant 5G provider for a country, and that country’s leaders said the wrong thing?” speculated Elliott Zaagman, who covers Chinese business and investment,

_____

Follow Dave Lee on Twitter @DaveLeeBBC

Do you have more information about this or any other technology story? You can reach Dave directly and securely through encrypted messaging app Signal on: +1 (628) 400-7370

Dyson, the technology company best known for its vacuum cleaners, has scrapped a project to build electric cars.

The firm, headed by British inventor Sir James Dyson, said its engineers had developed a “fantastic electric car” but that it would not hit the roads because it was not “commercially viable”.

In an email sent to all employees, Sir James said the company had unsuccessfully tried to find a buyer for the project.

The division employs 500 UK workers.

Dyson had planned to invest more than £2bn in developing a “radical and different” electric vehicle, a project it launched in 2016. It said the car would not be aimed at the mass market.

Half of the funds would go towards building the car, half towards developing electric batteries.

In October 2018 Dyson revealed plans to build the car at a new plant in Singapore. It was expected to be completed next year, with the first vehicles due to roll off the production line in 2021.


Dyson wanted to make something revolutionary – but also needed to make it pay. And the sums simply didn’t add up.

Sales of electric cars are climbing rapidly. Yet they still cost more to make than conventional cars, and generate much lower profits – if any.

Major manufacturers like VW can afford to plough tens of billions into the EV industry – on the basis that economies of scale will ultimately make the technology cheaper and generate returns.

Even the upstart Tesla, widely credited with showing everyone else just how good electric cars could be, has burnt through mountains of cash and had to go cap in hand to investors.

Dyson has concluded it simply can’t afford to play with the big boys – although its efforts to make a quantum leap in battery technology will continue.


The company also planned to invest £200m in the UK in research and development and test track facilities. Much of that money has already been spent and Dyson said it would use the site for other projects.

The rest of the funds intended for the electric car project would still be spent on developing other products, including its battery technology, Dyson said.

The assistant managing director of Singapore’s Economic Development Board Tan Kong Hwee said the country would still play a significant role in Dyson’s growth plans.

“As Dyson’s decision not to pursue the electric vehicle business was taken at an early stage, the disruption to its operations and workforce in Singapore will be minimal,” he said.

The first cars had already been developed and were being tested.

But in an email on Thursday, Sir James revealed that Dyson was closing electric car facilities both in the UK and Singapore.

The project employed 523 people, 500 of whom were in UK, and Sir James praised their “immense” achievements.

“This is not a product failure, or a failure of the team, for whom this news will be hard to hear and digest,” Sir James wrote.

But, he said: “We have tried very hard throughout the development process, we simply can no longer see a way to make it commercially viable.

“The Dyson automotive team has developed a fantastic car; they have been ingenious in their approach while remaining faithful to our philosophies.”

He said the firm was trying to find alternative roles for the workers in its home division, which makes things such as vacuum cleaners, fans and hairdryers.

Sir James said Dyson would continue to work on the battery technology, which was used in the car.

“Our battery will benefit Dyson in a profound way and take us in exciting new directions.”

“In summary, our investment appetite is undiminished and we will continue to deepen our roots in both the UK and Singapore,” he said.

“This is not the first project which has changed direction and it will not be the last.”

Turmoil in Redmond over deals with US immigration agents

Microsoft and its GitHub subsidiary are under fire from some of their own employees over service contracts with America’s controversial Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency.

A number of workers at both tech organizations, overseen by Redmond CEO Satya Nadella, have issued open letters demanding executives step in and kill contracts with the agency that has become notorious for its poor treatment of asylum-seeking immigrant families.

Earlier this week, employees at GitHub spoke out against the code-sharing service after top boss Nat Friedman sent out an email informing them that GitHub would renew a roughly $200,000 enterprise server contract with the agency.

“In April 2016, the Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency began the process to purchase a license of GitHub Enterprise Server,” Friedman said. “Both the original purchase, as well as the recent renewal, were made through one of our reseller partners.”

The GitHub CEO then went on to follow the playbook used by execs at DevOps service Chef, claiming that while he personally did not condone ICE and its treatment of migrants arriving at the US border, he did not think it best to cancel the contract outright or ban ICE from using GitHub’s products.

He did, however, note that GitHub would donate $500,000 to various immigration charities.

The note did not go over well with employees at either GitHub or parent company Microsoft. An open letter to management from GitHub employees is demanding that both GitHub and Microsoft execs end their cooperation with an agency that has been accused of multiple human rights violations.

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Shortly after word of the GitHub deal with ICE and Friedman’s defense of it surfaced, Microsoft workers began circulating their own petitions and letters in support of their peers at GitHub.

“Microsoft is an international company that professes to equality and diversity, and is built on the labor of many immigrants. So how can we continue to do business with an organization that endlessly terrorizes this populace?

“We demand that Microsoft upholds its own guidelines in our commitment for human rights. As leaders in the tech industry, we are paving the way for others to follow.”

Microsoft and Github have yet to respond to a request for comment on the matter. ®

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That’s the way the Cook, he crumbles: HKmap banned again

Apple has once again taken down an iOS app aimed at helping Hong Kong protesters avoid police crackdowns in the troubled city.

The Cupertino idiot-tax racket on Thursday removed HKMap.live from the App Store, just days after re-approving the app. NKmap lets users track police activity and pinpoints pro-democracy protests against China’s moves to restrict freedom in Hong Kong.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment on the matter, though a leaked email said to have been sent from CEO Tim Cook to Apple employees lists the iPhone maker’s reasons for caving to the demands of an authoritarian regime.

“The app in question allowed for the crowdsourced reporting and mapping of police checkpoints, protest hotspots, and other information,” the email reads.

“On its own, this information is benign. However, over the past several days we received credible information from the Hong Kong Cybersecurity and Technology Crime Bureau, as well as from users in Hong Kong, that the app was being used maliciously to target individual officers for violence and to victimize individuals and property where no police are present.”

For what it’s worth, the HKmap developers say this is not true: “There is zero evidence … that HKmap App has been used to target and ambush police, threaten public safety [nor that] criminals have used it to victimize residents in areas where they know there is no law enforcement,” the team said in a statement.

The leaked email also made no mention of the pressure applied to Apple by China, where state-backed media had accused Cook and Co. of aiding what it called “violent rioters” by allowing the app to circulate on its store.

Here’s that hippie, pro-privacy, pro-freedom Apple y’all so love: Hong Kong protest safety app banned from iOS store

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Apple has a history of capitulating to Chinese censorship demands in exchange for access to the nation’s vast market and electronics factories. Back in 2017 Cook agreed to remove VPN apps from the Chinese edition of the App Store after the government complained they were being used to circumvent its ‘great firewall’ network. It also removed the Taiwanese flag and references to the state (which China considers its territory) in the latest macOS build for the region.

According to its most recent quarterly report (PDF), Apple made roughly $3bn per month in revenues from China.

At least Apple will have some company in its decision to put its bottom line ahead of human rights. The National Basketball Association, which has been pursuing its own expansion into China, has muzzled its own employees after an executive with the Houston Rockets drew the ire of Beijing by posting a Tweet in support of the Hong Kong protesters.

Meanwhile games company Blizzard banned one of its top Hearthstone players after he brought up Hong Kong in an interview. Sone staff at the games company, which cites “Every voice matters” as one of its core values, said the player had broken the game’s code of conduct, but is staying quiet as to how exactly. ®

PS: Apple also pulled US news website Quartz’s app from the iOS China app store after it covered the Hong Kong protests.

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‘If only you could see what I’ve seen through your eyes’…

A Japanese man indicted on Tuesday for allegedly attacking a 21-year-old woman last month appears to have found where his victim lived by analyzing geographic details in an eye reflection captured in one of her social media photos.

According to Japanese broadcaster NHK, Hibiki Sato, 26, located the woman’s residence by matching the reflected image of a train station she frequented to a Google Street View image and waiting for her so he could follow her and find where she lived.

Later, when the woman, identified as Ena Mastuoka, a member of a Japanese idol group, returned home after a concert on September 1, she was reportedly ambushed, assaulted, and injured by Sato, said to be a fan of her group.

According to Tokyo Reporter, Sato waited for her inside her building. He’s alleged to have located her specific apartment by analyzing videos she’d posted for the positioning of her curtains and light patterns.

Finding telling details in photos used to be the stuff of science fiction, as depicted in the famous zoom and enhance clip from Blade Runner where detective Rick Deckard scans and enhances a photograph to help his investigation. Now it’s part of the playbook for sleuths and stalkers alike.

Basic digital image forensics tools are available online at no cost. And companies like Amped Software and FDI market digital forensic tools for professional investigators, to say nothing of photo applications offered by Adobe and the like.

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Speaking with the BBC, Elliot Higgins, founder of investigative website Bellingcat, said even the smallest details can reveal where photos were taken and other information.

Bellingcat made a name for itself by using open source intelligence – online photos, public data sources, crowdsourcing, and so on – to investigate events like the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in 2014 and the poisoning of Sergei Skripal in 2018.

Many online services like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter remove Exif metadata – a potential privacy risk – added to photo files by digital cameras, though some, like Google Photos or iCloud Photos preserve it.

The metadata that can be derived from reflections in photos won’t be so easily suppressed. But there’s an opportunity for some large cloud photo service to come up with a machine learning algorithm capable of blurring all the telling details that show up the reflections captured in digital images. ®

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Media giant says it can now pay back subscription fees

Adobe has reversed course on its decision to withhold refund payments from customers in Venezuela.

The media software kingpin has updated its statement to customers in the embattled South American nation, affirming they will at least get back the money they spent for subscriptions to Creative Cloud and other Adobe services.

“If you purchased your products directly with Adobe, you will receive a refund before the end of the month for any license period paid and not received,” Adobe says in a translation of the Spanish-language FAQ document.

“We are working for our distributors to act in the same way.”

This reversal comes after Adobe told customers earlier this week that sanctions ordered by the White House against the regime of Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro were forcing them to cancel the subscriptions of all customers within the country.

“The recent Executive Order of the US Government about Venezuela prohibits almost all transactions and services between US companies and entities and individuals in Venezuela,” Adobe said.

“In order to comply with that order, Adobe will deactivate all accounts in Venezuela on October 29, 2019, with the exception of Behance.”

Adobe results show it is still creaming those subscriptions but its share price fell – why?

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Initially, Adobe said that as part of the sanctions it would not be allowed to refund any of the subscription payments from customers as long as the trade ban was in effect. Instead it was simply going to cut off service and pocket the subscription cash.

This drew criticism from customers who suggested that Adobe was misinterpreting the sanction order, particularly when it came to issuing refunds to Venezuelan subscribers. Adobe has yet to comment on whether the decision to issue the refunds came from within the company or if it was prompted by a call from the US government.

Either way, Adobe says those who paid for subscriptions in Venezuela will be getting their money back and will have until the 28th of October to download anything from their account that they want to keep.

Adobe cannot say when it will be able to return its services to Venezuela, as that will depend on the US first lifting the trade sanctions. ®

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YouTube has deleted more videos by so-called “pick-up artists”, who teach men how to pick up women.

Another seven videos have been deleted and three channels have been terminated due to “violative sexual content”.

On Sunday, YouTube removed over a hundred videos for violating its rules on nudity and sexual conduct.

The platform deleted the videos a day before a BBC Scotland investigation into the global seduction industry was published.

The channels banned on Thursday belonged to so-called “pick-up artists” based in Australia, England, and Lithuania, and had 80,000 subscribers combined.

The remaining videos were uploaded by men in the USA.

The platform’s policy states that channels receive three “strikes” before accounts are terminated.

‘Refining our policies’

A YouTube spokesman confirmed the deletion after the contents of the videos was flagged by BBC Scotland’s investigations unit.

He said: “YouTube strictly prohibits explicit sexual, graphic or harassing content and we review and take action on content when flagged.

“Nothing is more important than protecting the safety of our community, and we will continue to review and refine our policies in this area.”

The videos removed on Sunday, for violating YouTube’s rules on nudity and sexual conduct, were linked to channels highlighted in the BBC investigation – D.W.L.F Game and Street Attraction.

They included what the men say are secret recordings of women having sex.

In September, Adnan Ahmed, who ran the D.W.L.F Game channel and called himself Addy A-Game, was convicted of five counts of threatening and abusive behaviour towards young women.

Street Attraction insisted they had done nothing wrong.

Watch the Panorama and Disclosure documentaries on iPlayer now.