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Trending Podcast

English, Media, 1 season, 188 episodes, 2 days, 21 hours, 48 minutes
In-depth reporting on the world of social media
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The Kenyan influencer championing climate denial

Jusper Machogu is a farmer from southwestern Kenya who describes himself as a “climate sceptic”: he wrongly claims that climate change is a “scam” or a “hoax” designed to hold Africa back. On social media, he has also become known as a staunch defender of fossil fuel exploration in Africa. His views have caught the eye of those in the West who, like him, deny the overwhelming scientific consensus on global warming. They have helped him grow his following and spread his message globally. But, in doing so, has Mr Machogu unwittingly become a tool for the fossil fuel industry? And, on a rapidly warming planet, just how dangerous is the message of social media influencers like him? Presenter/producer: Marco Silva Editor: Flora Carmichael
6/14/202418 minutes, 7 seconds
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Is Russia targeting Poland's farmers’ protests?

Farmers' protests have been erupting across Europe, and on February 20th one image from a protest in Poland went viral. It showed a tractor carrying a soviet flag and bearing a slogan calling on Russian President Vladimir Putin to ‘bring order to Ukraine, Brussels and our rulers.’ The man driving the tractor was arrested and is currently awaiting trial. After the image was released Poland’s foreign ministry spokesperson released a statement warning of attempts to take over the country’s agricultural protest movement by extreme and irresponsible groups ‘possibly under the influence of Russian agents.’ In this episode of BBC Trending, we attempt to track down the man behind the banner. Who is he? And what’s the evidence for Russian involvement in, or amplification of, farmers’ protests in Poland and beyond?
6/7/202420 minutes, 11 seconds
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Love and deception in the age of AI

In a viral thread posted on X in January this year, a 23-year-old Russian man claims he used ChatGPT to filter through and chat thousands of women on Tinder, eventually proposing to one that was selected by the algorithm. The scale and success of his experiment sparked scepticism. Some raised doubts about the technical plausibility of it, while others voiced concerns about the ethical implications of such an endeavour. In an attempt to better understand his experiment, BBC Trending interviewed the Russian man and asked experts what they made of it. As AI becomes more advanced and accessible, the story also highlights broader concerns about the future of this technology in online dating. How will AI reshape the landscape of online dating in the coming years? What biases may be inherent in its algorithms? Is using AI in this manner a form of catfishing? Presenter: Olga Robinson Producer: Marta Pausilli Editor: Flora Carmichael
5/29/202420 minutes, 19 seconds
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Long Covid: Think yourself well?

Long Covid can ruin lives, and scientists are striving to understand the condition and beginning to get some early clues about possible treatments. While there are still more questions than answers, though, many have turned online for help. But could what they find there sometimes do more harm than good? Rachel Schraer goes undercover to investigate the Lightning Process, a controversial treatment programme being promoted online for Long Covid. Reporter: Rachel Schraer Producer: Paul Grant Editor: Flora Carmichael
5/21/202418 minutes, 19 seconds
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The anti-vax candidate?

In 2024 yet another Kennedy is making a bid for the White House. Robert F Kennedy Jr - nephew of the late President John F Kennedy - is enjoying strong polling numbers for an independent candidate. He’s running on a platform of promising to take on powerful vested interests to create a better life for the average American. But away from his Camelot-infused stump speeches, he is facing questions about his long and controversial record of spreading misinformation about the safety of vaccines.In this episode, the BBC’s Health and Disinformation Reporter Rachel Schraer investigates how Kennedy is building a base from across the political spectrum, inspite of, or because of, his views on public health policy.
3/2/202420 minutes, 2 seconds
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Democracy on the brink in Tunisia?

In 2011, Tunisians took to the streets against the ruling authoritarian regime. Catalysed by social media, the protests would reverberate around the world, spark the Arab Spring and lead to significant democratic reforms in the country. More recently, Tunisia’s democracy has reached a turning point. In 2021, as public frustration with the pandemic and the failing economy grew, the Tunisian President Kais Saied sacked the prime minister, suspended parliament and pushed through constitutional reforms consolidating his power.And now, it appears online debate is being suppressed. BBC Trending speaks to people who have experienced first hand how social media can be used to survey and attack the government’s critics.
2/24/202419 minutes, 36 seconds
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The new fight for land rights

In Malaysian Borneo, indigenous people have struggled for land rights against companies and the state. Using new mapping technology, communities in Borneo’s rainforests are racing to prove their claims. In this episode of Trending we’ll be exploring how technology and social media are being used and misused to shift the balance of power.Reporter: Jacqui Wakefield Producer: Olivia Lang Editor: Flora Carmichael
2/17/202418 minutes, 20 seconds
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Fear and conspiracies in Las Vegas

Marianna Spring talks to a survivor of the mass shooting in Las Vegas in 2017 about how posts on a social media account made him question an event he’d witnessed with his own eyes.Presenter: Marianna Spring Producers: Ben Carter and Emma Close Editor: Flora Carmichael Sound Engineer: Tom Brignell
2/10/202419 minutes, 22 seconds
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The disinformation war in the Middle East

"A flood of disinformation has erupted across social media in the online propaganda battle that’s being waged alongside the physical conflict between Israel and Hamas. Everything from video game clips falsely presented as genuine combat footage, to the outright denial of civilian deaths, have been deployed to try to skew the online narrative and warp public perceptions. BBC Verify’s Olga Robinson and Shayan Sardarizadeh examine the trends in this alternative war over the Middle East with the help of Eliot Higgins, founder of Bellingcat, the independent investigative organisation."Presenter: Olga Robinson Reporter: Shayan Sardarizadeh Producer: Ed Main Editor: Flora Carmichael
2/3/202420 minutes, 22 seconds
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The Mexican mayor and a deepfake scandal

When an audio recording alleged to be from the Mayor of one of the world's largest cities started circulating online, reality was called into question. Mexico City's mayor, claimed the clip- which sounded like he was discussing a campaign against a political candidate- was AI generated. Others are convinced the audio is real. In this episode of Trending’s Power season, Jack Goodman and Laura García go on the hunt for answers. Using the latest AI detection tools, they explore the possibilities and limitations of verifying such content, and question how disinformation may shape Mexico's general election in June. Could AI disrupt elections around the world?
1/27/202418 minutes, 48 seconds
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Crude fakes in Uganda

A BBC investigation has uncovered a network of fake social media accounts seemingly working together to promote the Ugandan government and the East African Crude Oil Pipeline. Online, an information battle appears to be going on – one being waged by hundreds of social media accounts set on pushing narratives in line with those of the Ugandan government. As part of a coordinated campaign, they have been artificially inflating support for EACOP online and viciously targeting those that oppose the project – both at home and abroad. But who is behind these accounts? And how influential have they become?
1/20/202420 minutes, 13 seconds
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Serbia’s real life ‘bots’

Over the summer, a mysterious Twitter persona published details of over 14,500 social media accounts - all of them controlled by real-life Serbian citizens, it's claimed. They stand accused of posting… whatever the President’s party tells them to.It’s long been rumoured that Serbia’s ruling SNS party commands the online activity of a small army of citizens, dubbed ‘bots’ by the opposition. But this kind of list, naming and shaming thousands of ordinary Serbians, is unprecedented.If true, their activity represents a form of political corruption according to Serbia’s public prosecutor. The government’s response has alarmed observers - it shrugged off the story, publishing instead a veiled tongue-in-cheek ‘admission’.But who is behind the list, and can it be trusted? BBC Trending has analysed the data in an attempt to establish if the ‘bots’ are indeed real people. And whether their accounts show evidence of co-ordinated activity.Featuring interviews gathered on the ground in Belgrade, we hear from opposition politicians, pro-democracy activists and a self-professed real-life ‘bot’. She tells us she trolled the President’s opponents under threat of losing her job – as a receptionist at a state-controlled electricity company in a small Serbian town.Reporter: Sam Judah Editor: Flora CarmichaelAdditional reporting by: Grujica Andric, Lazar Covs, and Alison Benjamin.
1/13/202419 minutes, 2 seconds
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Exposing people smugglers

People smugglers are selling illegal routes out of Pakistan to Europe on social media. We’ve gone undercover with BBC Newsnight and BBC Urdu to expose how smugglers are luring potential migrants into taking dangerous voyages. They advertise online… in plain sight. Promising people safe passage to Europe. Presenter: Reha Kansara Producers: Samrah Fatima, Jasmine Dyer and Jonathan Griffin Editor: Flora Carmichael
10/27/202319 minutes, 16 seconds
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The Voice: conspiracies and Australia's referendum

Earlier in October, Australia took to the polls in a referendum and rejected the establishment of an indigenous advisory body in the constitution - the Voice. Beyond the typical controversies, social media became flooded with false information. In this episode of Trending, we’ll delve into how online conspiracy groups garnered support for their extreme theories to oppose the Voice, and gained unlikely allies along the way. Presenter: Beth Godwin Reporter: Jacqui Wakefield Producers: Jacqui Wakefield and Beth Godwin
10/21/202321 minutes, 33 seconds
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Trolled by a life coaching cult

A life coaching group has been accused of trolling former members. Lighthouse International Group promises to help people realise their dreams and ambitions, but the reality is more sinister. Lighthouse obsessively records and stores mentoring sessions and group calls. But when people ask questions or try to leave, that’s when the trouble really starts. BBC Trending's series Trolled lifts the lid on online abuse and trolling on and off social media. Presenter: Catrin Nye Producer: Ed Main Editor: Flora Carmichael
10/14/202320 minutes, 13 seconds
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Inside America’s political battleground

Mike Wendling and Maxine Hughes explore how extreme conspiracies and right wing rhetoric went mainstream in America. From the Proud Boys' Enrique Tarrio, to far right militias and Antifa, we hear from individuals on the extremes of American politics about what they believe and why, and explore what part social media has played in the radicalisation of parts of American society. Presenter: Mike Wendling Reporter: Maxine Hughes Producer: Kayleen Devlin Editor: Flora Carmichael
10/7/202322 minutes
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India's latest 'love trap'

Videos taken across India are going viral on social media. They show hordes of men harassing and even attacking young couples in the street. The clips are accompanied by a hashtag #BhagwaLoveTrap - and have been inspired by an inflammatory narrative. The theory suggests Hindu men are trying to seduce Muslim women and lure them away from their communities - but there’s scant evidence to support the idea. Shruti Menon meets the Muslim activists pushing the idea of a ‘Bhagwa Love Trap’, and asks what’s behind it. And she hears from a Hindu leader who thinks the theory is nonsense, and claims the reverse is happening instead. Presenter: Shruti Menon Producer: Sam Judah Editor: Flora Carmichael
9/30/202319 minutes, 8 seconds
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TikTok frenzies

TikTok started as an app for posting lip syncs and dance videos, but quickly developed into a platform where users can follow along world events, criminal investigations and social unrest in real time. From frenzied speculation over true crime to vandalism and protests at schools, TikTok seems to be connected to harmful behaviour offline as the app draws in billions of eyeballs and spawns all kinds of content out at scale and speed. According to several company insiders, TikTok’s drive towards participation and maximising engagement has led to these frenzies. TikTok says their platform isn’t to blame, but is the app changing our behaviour? Presenter: Marianna Spring Producers: Beth Godwin and Olivia Lace-Evans Editor: Flora Carmichael
9/23/202320 minutes, 33 seconds
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How to exit the manosphere

You may have heard about how young men are being drawn into the so-called ‘manosphere’ but how can they escape? Can subreddits such as #IncelExit help men who are involuntarily celibate to put their disturbing views to one side and foster more healthy perspectives about women and dating? We hear from former manosphere subscribers around the world who have found comfort in opening up and addressing their issues in relatively empathetic Reddit forums. Academic Josh Thorburn from Monash University in Melbourne welcomes the deradicalisation that can occur in these online spaces and says subreddits are able to reach communities internationally that professionals often can’t. However #IncelExit and #ExRedPill are not a silver bullet for deradicalising young men. Many Redditors experience a non-linear journey and don’t get rid of all of their misogynistic baggage overnight. And not everyone is a “decent dude” looking for a way out. Presenter: Jonathan Griffin Producer: Loonie Park Editor: Flora Carmichael
9/16/202319 minutes, 35 seconds
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The germ deniers

Conspiracy theories about viruses and vaccines have exploded in recent years. At the same time, something arguably stranger has spiralled…groups online who don’t believe germs which cause disease exist at all. They believe that there’s no such thing as viruses and that all diseases are caused by living an unhealthy life, particularly our diet and environmental toxins. It goes hand in hand with a rejection of vaccines and other forms of conventional medicine. The BBC's health and disinformation reporter Rachel Schraer investigates how germ denial has grown and spread on social media. In South Africa, a small group of germ deniers, influenced by American conspiracy theorists, is awaking painful memories. Presenter and prodcer: Rachel Schraer Editor: Flora Carmichael
9/8/202319 minutes, 14 seconds
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The AI ghosts haunting TikTok

In a gruesome new trend, TikTok has been flooded with videos in which AI-generated versions of real life child murder victims tell the stories of how they were killed. The mother of child murder victim James Bulger and other grieving parents have expressed their disgust that their loved ones digital versions of their loved ones have been created and posted online without their consent. In the first episode of “Extreme”, a new series from BBC Trending, Ed Main investigates this phenomenon. More than 100 different AI-generated versions of the same child have been posted online. Social media safety campaigner Baroness Beeban Kidron calls it an “emotional assault” on victims’ families. While TikTok has banned AI content that uses the likeness of real children, some of these videos have gathered millions of views. So who is creating these mini horror movies and why are people watching them despite the distress they are causing? Presenter and producer: Ed Main Additional reporting: Thuong Le Editor: Flora Carmichael
9/1/202321 minutes, 20 seconds
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Venezuelan deepfakes and propaganda

Earlier this year videos made using artificial intelligence caused a stir in Venezuela. Many Venezuelans would have thought they were real news reports but a Spanish newspaper exposed them as deepfakes and linked them to a pro-government agenda. The journalist who exposed the fakes was immediately targeted and the Venezuelan government went into damage control, responding on Twitter with the hashtag #SomosInteligenciaSocial – 'We Are Social Intelligence', seemingly to drown out criticism. But what does the hashtag mean, and how does it fit into the country’s wider theme of quashing dissent? Carl Miller delves into the murky world of the Venezuelan state’s propaganda tactics online. Presenter: Carl Miller - co-founder of the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media at Demos and author of The Death of the Gods Producer: Reha Kansara and Rachelle Krygier Editor: Flora Carmichael
5/20/202322 minutes, 37 seconds
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Who’s trolling successful Asian women?

Jiayang Fan was targeted by trolls while her mother was dying, and again when they learned of her death. The New Yorker writer is one of several high profile journalists who’ve been systematically targeted with online abuse. The victims are all women of Chinese descent, now living in the West. And according to one group of researchers, the perpetrators are mostly bots, and may be the creation of a powerful political force. Experts believe the campaign could be part of a broader push by the Chinese Communist Party to silence dissent overseas, but what evidence is there that the government is responsible? And why are women being singled out as targets? We hear from Jiayang Fan herself, and the Australian think tank that highlighted the trend. Reporter / Producer: Sam Judah Editor: Flora Carmichael
5/13/202319 minutes, 9 seconds
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Trolled by a life coaching cult

A cult-like life coaching group has been accused of trolling former members. Lighthouse International Group promises to help people realise their dreams and ambitions, but the reality is more sinister. Lighthouse obsessively records and stores mentoring sessions and group calls. But when people ask questions or try to leave, that’s when the trouble really starts. BBC Trending's series Trolled lifts the lid on online abuse and trolling on and off social media. Presenter: Catrin Nye Producer: Ed Main Editor: Flora Carmichael
5/6/202320 minutes, 12 seconds
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Ghouling: The trolls targeting bereaved people

Since the Covid vaccines were rolled out, a trend has sprung up – of accounts online linking virtually any death or illness, of a celebrity, athlete or ordinary person, to the shots without any evidence. A conspiracy theory film called Died Suddenly released last year appears to have supercharged this practice- termed “ghouling”. BBC Trending investigates how far the Died Suddenly film has spread and what its impact has been – on the people who believe its message, and on bereaved families being trolled. We speak to Stew Peters, the film-maker behind the film, and challenge him on the misleading claims he is spreading. Presenter: Rachel Schraer Reporter: Mike Wendling Editor: Flora Carmichael
4/29/202319 minutes, 54 seconds
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Brazil’s real life trolls

In one of the dirtiest electoral campaigns in Brazil's history, figures on the left and right of the political spectrum trolled their opponents with jokes, ridicule and disinformation rocking the country's young democracy. We speak to both sides including a Congressman whose series of ambiguous or misleading posts on Twitter got millions of views and an Argentine political consultant whose false claims about voter fraud went viral, playing a key role in the movement that led to widespread national protests. So how has trolling evolved to become a central feature in Brazil’s political discourse and is there any way back from here? Jonathan Griffin and Juliana Gragnani investigate. Presenters and producers: Jonathan Griffin and Juliana Gragnani Editor: Flora Carmichael
4/22/202320 minutes, 47 seconds
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Twitter ‘ninjas’ against climate denial

Climate-denying trolls, beware: a group of internet vigilantes is coming for you. They call themselves “Team Ninja Trollhunters”: a ragtag group of activists from around the globe, who have vowed to fight those spreading climate change misinformation on Twitter. The group claims to have succeeded in getting hundreds of users booted off the platform, but their methods aren’t without controversy. As a ferocious information war rages on online, are these vigilantes at risk of behaving like the very trolls they claim to be fighting? Presenter: Marco Silva Editor: Flora Carmichael
4/14/202320 minutes, 36 seconds
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Myanmar’s digital battleground

Burmese women have been at the forefront of the resistance against the military junta ever since Myanmar lurched back into a dictatorship in 2021. Online, female activists and politicians have been fighting for their rights, gathering intel and strategizing - hoping that one day Myanmar will return to democracy. But these women have also been on the receiving end of targeted online attacks which have leaked into the offline world. So who is behind these strategic hate campaigns and why are they doing it? BBC Trending’s Reha Kansara investigates and unearths a network of pro-junta online trolls who dox and abuse women who oppose the regime. Presenter: Reha Kansara Producers: Nyein Chan Aye and Sachin Croker Editor: Flora Carmichael
4/8/202321 minutes, 27 seconds
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Twitter storm

Since the world’s richest man bought Twitter last year, more than half the workforce has been sacked and scores of users previously banned for breaking Twitter’s rules were reinstated. Marianna Spring investigates how Elon Musk is transforming one of the world’s most influential social media platforms. She speaks to former insiders and examines evidence that suggests trolling and hate are thriving under the new owner. This is the first episode in BBC Trending's new series 'Trolled'.
4/1/202320 minutes, 41 seconds
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How humanitarian crises are exploited online

We investigate the money-making schemes that spring up on platforms like TikTok in the wake of conflict. First - the war in Ukraine saw a wave of donations from ordinary citizens around the world. But as we discover, scammers have joined the fray, exploiting emotive content in a bid to siphon cash from the catastrophe. And second - TikTok livestreams featuring Syrian refugees pleading for help are generating big money from sympathetic viewers online. We find out where most of the funds actually end up. Reporter: Hannah Gelbart Producer: Sam Judah Editor: Flora Carmichael
1/7/202324 minutes, 3 seconds
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Cash for conspiracy theories

If promoting harmful conspiracy theories can be a lucrative way to make money, then is the best way for victims to fight back by hitting those responsible in the wallet? Alex Jones made a fortune from his Infowars website, before he was ordered to pay nearly £1.5 billion in defamation damages for falsely claiming that the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting was a hoax Parents of some of the 22 people murdered during the massacre, brought the legal action after suffering years of abuse and threats as a result of Jones accusing them of being “crisis actors”. Now people targeted by conspiracy theories which deny the reality of other horrific events are contemplating similar moves against those who false allegations have blighted their lives. This episode contains audio from the websites of Infowars and Richard D Hall. Presenter: Marianna Spring Producers: Sam Judah & Ant Adeane Editor: Ed Main
12/31/202224 minutes, 29 seconds
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Akon’s Wakanda and a crumbling crypto dream

The R’n’B singer Akon has had an incredibly successful music career, with a number of smash hits and legions of fans. Recently the singer launched two ambitious projects that are inextricably linked. The first is a cryptocurrency called Akoin that Akon says will provide financial independence for Africans, although some people are dissatisfied after investing in the dream and having nothing to show for it. The other project is a reported $6billion futuristically designed metropolis on the coast of Senegal called Akon City. Together Akoin and Akon City are supposed to represent the future of African life but after several delays will these plans ever take off? Presenter: Jonathan Griffin Producers: Borso Tall, Ned Davies Editor: Flora Carmichael
12/24/202231 minutes, 46 seconds
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Med beds: Miracle cure or misinformation?

The lack of science around 'med beds' - miracle devices with magical healing properties - has not stopped people from shelling out thousands of dollars to buy them. Why have med beds taken off online and who is selling them? Presenter: Mike Wendling Producer: Elizabeth Hotson
12/17/202226 minutes, 8 seconds
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SafeMoon and the chaotic world of crypto

SafeMoon promised its investors a trip to the moon but instead cost some their life savings. We speak to the YouTuber Coffeezilla who investigated the problematic token, the people who lost out and we assess the safety and future of crypto coins. Presenter: Joe Tidy Producers: Jerry Sullivan and Beth Godwin Editor: Flora Carmichael
12/10/202224 minutes, 21 seconds
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India’s anti-MLM movement

The past few years gave way to a boom in the number of people joining direct selling schemes in India who were lured in by the false promise of riches. These tactics – imported from the West – have been quietly growing without much scrutiny. Ria – not her real name – fell prey to one of the largest schemes operating in the country. In an exclusive interview for BBC Trending, she reveals how she was trained to “attract people” into the business. There is a small group of crusaders who are fighting back, trying to save people from buying into schemes that leave more people further out of pocket than they were to begin with. So who are they and how are they doing it? The BBC’s health and disinformation reporter, Rachel Schraer investigates this phenomenon, speaking to experts, the authorities and even two YouTubers who are spreading awareness in the small South Indian village. Presenter: Rachel Schraer Producer: Reha Kansara Editor: Flora Carmichael
12/3/202224 minutes, 40 seconds
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The influencer and the insider: Chinmark's demise

In 2020 the Chinmark Group appeared to be a thriving Nigerian business empire, endorsed by a string of popular influencers online. It sold investment deals to its followers, promising them astonishing returns. Today the empire is in tatters, but what went wrong? We hear from a social media star who hyped the company up, a former employee who sold the scheme to the public, and a student who staked his life savings on its success - losing everything in the process. And we’ll find out why firms following a similar pattern are proving so popular in Nigeria. Reporters: Chiagozie Chiagozie Nwonwu and Fauziyya Tukur Producer: Sam Judah Editor: Flora Carmichael
11/26/202224 minutes, 8 seconds
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The 'Alan MacMasters’ toaster hoax

For more than a decade, he tricked the world into believing a Scottish scientist called Alan MacMasters invented the electric toaster in 1893. At the heart of this web of fantasy was a Wikipedia article that fooled dozens of journalists, public officials, and even primary school teachers. But how did this hoaxer get away with it for so long? And how did an eagle-eyed 15-year-old eventually manage to expose his deception? Presenter: Marco Silva Editor: Flora Carmichael
11/19/202226 minutes, 9 seconds
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Roe v Wade: The next battle

Since the overturning of Roe versus Wade, dozens of US abortion clinics have closed their doors. Now efforts to provide abortion information and access have moved online, where false claims, genuine pills and dodgy remedies sit side by side. We meet the anti-abortion campaigners spreading false claims that clinically approved pills are dangerous and pro-choice supporters promoting dodgy herbal remedies on social media. Presenter: Rachel Schraer Producers: Jerry Sullivan & Kayleen Devlin Editor: Flora Carmichael
9/17/202226 minutes, 59 seconds
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Political influencers for hire – in Kenya

Ahead of Kenya’s general election, a bitter war for public opinion was being fought on social media. In a bid to sway the result, online influencers – from students to pop stars – were offered cash in exchange for political messages. Critics say that paid political messages are swamping social media – but they aren’t declared as adverts, and instead they pose as genuine political opinion. We meet some of the key players in the country’s online information economy: micro-influencers, musicians and bigtime strategists explain their role in the controversial industry. And we hear from researchers who think the practice could be corroding democratic debate in Kenya. Reporters: Jack Goodman and Peter Mwai Producer: Sam Judah Editor: Flora Carmichael
9/10/202224 minutes, 13 seconds
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Can MrBeast help fix climate change?

MrBeast is YouTube royalty: with more than 100 million subscribers, he has legions of fans around the world, in awe of his elaborate stunts. He is one of the highest-paid stars on the platform - and yet, the American YouTuber says he wants to use his platform to “make the world a better place”. He has thrown his weight behind two viral environmental campaigns: #TeamTrees and #TeamSeas. Together, they have raised more than 55 million dollars to plant trees and remove plastic from the ocean. MrBeast’s supporters say he has energised a “new generation” of climate activists, but some experts have doubts: they have questioned how much of a difference these campaigns will actually make. Do they have a point? Presenter & producer: Marco Silva Editor: Ed Main Picture Credit: Getty Images
9/3/202225 minutes, 10 seconds
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The strange story of QAnon in Japan

How did a bizarre US-based conspiracy theory about Donald Trump being the saviour of the world, lead to people protesting in the streets of Tokyo and Osaka accusing police of being reptiles? From its obscure online beginnings only a few years ago, the QAnon movement in Japan has morphed through several different phases, becoming ever more extreme in the process. Its latest incarnation is a group called Yamato Q, which embraces a series of wild and false claims. Its members believe they have different genes from the rest of the population and that Covid-19 does not exist. Some have even attempted to disrupt vaccination centres. So should wider society be concerned? Presenters: Jonathan Griffin and Shayan Sardarizadeh Producer: Jonathan Griffin Editor: Ed Main
8/27/202225 minutes, 14 seconds
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The misrule of Canada’s QAnon queen

Romana Didulo is a QAnon influencer who proclaimed herself “Queen of Canada”. She has issued a series of bizarre and bloodcurdling “royal decrees” claiming to have cancelled all personal debt and threatening the death penalty for those who defy her. It’s all a complete fantasy, but that hasn’t prevented her attracting a sizeable following which helps fund her tours around her kingdom in a fleet of large motor homes. Now this maple leaf monarch is seeking to expand her empire beyond Canada. But all is not well in the court of Queen Romana. Followers who believed her claims are suffering the real life consequences of stopping paying their rent and utility bills. While others who tried to enact her commands have faced arrest. Presenter: Rachel Schraer Producer: Sam Judah Editor: Ed Main
8/20/202224 minutes, 27 seconds
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Russian QAnon and the Ukraine dilemma

Russian QAnon and the Ukraine dilemma QAnon is rooted in the deep divisions of American politics and helped inspire the storming of the US capitol in Washington. So why has this bizarre and baseless conspiracy theory also been attracting supporters in places like Moscow and Siberia? The third part of Trending’s mini-series about the global impact of QAnon investigates its growing popularity in Russia. But while some supporters have adapted QAnon ideas for a Russian context, this fledgling movement has now been thrown into disarray by the war in Ukraine. Presenter: Olga Robinson Producer: Jerry Sullivan Editor: Ed Main
8/13/202224 minutes, 15 seconds
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Has QAnon fuelled South Africa’s divisions?

What happened when a bizarre US-based conspiracy theory surfaced a continent away in Africa? In the second part of Trending’s mini series about the impact of QAnon around the world, we report from South Africa. At the heart of QAnon is the baseless claim that former US president Donald Trump is waging a secret war against a cabal of powerful paedophiles who run American politics and Hollywood. But in South Africa, elements of QAnon have been translated into the local context of pre-existing tensions in society, and are helping turn South Africans against both immigrants and one another. Presenter: Jonathan Griffin Reporter: Mpho Lakaje Editor: Mike Wendling
8/6/202224 minutes, 52 seconds
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QAnon at the ballot box

Believers in the QAnon conspiracy theory were part of the mob that stormed the US Capitol on 6 January 2021. Even though the movement’s figurehead went silent for months, followers continue to try to influence American politics – but their tactics have changed. Members of a coalition assembled by a QAnon influencer are running for public office in more than a dozen states, targeting positions that control elections. Among them are Jim Marchant, a Republican candidate for secretary of state of Nevada, and Doug Mastriano, who won a fierce primary battle to win the Republican nomination for governor of Pennsylvania. They’re both part of the America First Secretary of State (SOS) Coalition, a group that was founded by a mysterious QAnon influencer who operates under the pseudonym “Juan O Savin”. We investigate what the coalition trying to do – and what influence QAnon still has on American politics today. Presenter: Mike Wendling Producer: Sam Judah Picture caption: Jake Angeli (left), the so-called “QAnon Shaman”, pictured at a rally in Washington in December 2020. Picture credit: Getty Images
7/30/202226 minutes, 47 seconds
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India’s alt-right 'trads'

A new extremist Hindu movement made up mostly of young men is emerging in India. They call themselves “trads” – short for traditionalists - and they mimic the tricks and techniques used by the American alt-right. This fringe movement came to prominence after some of its proponents created Bulli Bai, an app that pretended to auction off prominent Muslim women - making them the targets of abuse and harassment. Trads love memes and loathe mainstream Hindu nationalist parties, even the ruling BJP. They see the party and Prime Minister Narendra Modi as not nearly as aggressive enough in advancing Hindu interests. So who are the trads and what do they want? Reha Kansara investigates, speaking to experts and women who’ve been targeted by trads. And she talks to a 16-year-old trad who’s obsessed with fascist ideas and calls for Indian democracy to be replaced by a Hindu monarchy. Presenter: Reha Kansara Producers: Shruti Menon and Shubham Koul
5/28/202220 minutes, 25 seconds
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The online boom in climate doom

It is hard not to feel anxious about climate change. After all, the world is already experiencing the effects of global warming - and scientists tell us much worse could still be on its way. For some, tackling climate change feels like a lost cause: a job so big and complex, that it is doomed for failure - the demise of the human species is inevitable. This is wrong. But even though this view is predicated on falsehoods and distortions, it appears to be spreading online - and a lot of young people are getting sucked in. Why is "doomism" going viral? And who are the activists and campaigners standing up to it? Presenter: Marco Silva (Illustration: Hands holding electronic devices showing melting planets. Credit: Sandra Rodríguez Chillida/BBC News)
5/21/202219 minutes, 49 seconds
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Gaming Brazil's election

Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro has enjoyed a particularly close relationship with the gaming community. They were one of the groups he relied on to get elected in 2018 and he has since rewarded them by lowering taxes on video games consoles. The country’s gaming industry is unique – forged by a combination of strict import laws under military rule, homegrown talent and later, high prices which kept the world of gaming firmly in the hands of the rich and privileged. Brazilian gamers were drawn to President Bolsonaro’s straight talk. But there are hints that things might be changing. His handling of the coronavirus pandemic has caused Bolsonaro’s approval rates to fall across society – and gamers are no exception. Some high profile gaming supporters have turned their back on the president. Plus the industry’s demographics are rapidly shifting, and not in Bolsonaro’s favour. So how are video game developers visualising the 2022 election? And can President Bolsonaro still rely on the support of the button bashers to defeat his arch enemy Lula? Presenter: Jonathan Griffin Reporter: Juliana Gragnani (Image: A still from a satirical Brazilian game which pits politicians against each other in a vicious fight. Credit: Políticos Memes Kombat)
5/14/202221 minutes, 13 seconds
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Confessions of an election troll in the Philippines

We hear from a troll from the Philippines - the "patient zero" of fake news. Experts say the problem is as bad as ever, as a new election looms. Researchers claim that tactics seen playing out in the southeast Asian country have cropped up elsewhere since Rodrigo Duterte rose to power – perhaps most notably in the US in 2016. Now it’s time for Filipinos to return to the polls, and the experts warn that the problem hasn’t been solved – the current campaign has been plagued by disinformation. Not only do we hear from those looking into the issue, but Trending speaks to a self-confessed troll who says he’s been hired by multiple political candidates. Some of the tactics he employs are more sophisticated than you might think. Presenter: Kayleen Devlin Picture caption: Philippine presidential candidate Ferdinand "Bong Bong" Marcos Jr gestures during a rally in Lipa, Batangas province, Philippines, 20 April. Picture credit: Eloisa Lopez/Reuters
5/7/202218 minutes, 24 seconds
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Tortured for tweeting?

When Kakwenza Rukirabashaija mocked the Ugandan president’s son on Twitter, he knew he was playing with fire. Within 24 hours, the satirist had been arrested, and says he was tortured before fleeing the country. Throughout the ordeal, he has not stopped tweeting. He wants the world to know what is happening in Uganda before he returns to face trial, risking his life in the process. Kakwenza’s story is not unique, A report from Human Rights Watch says hundreds of people - opponents of President Yoweri Museveni - have been illegally detained and tortured in recent years. We meet members of the Ugandan diaspora protesting the government’s actions online. They say their accounts have been hacked and hijacked by government-sponsored cybercriminals. And that even overseas, they may not be completely safe. Reporter: Sam Judah (Photo: Kakwenza Rukirabashaija in court in Kampala in February, facing charges of offensive communication involving insulting the country's ruling family. Credit: Getty Images)
4/30/202218 minutes, 5 seconds
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Ghana's free speech crackdown

A number of Ghanaian journalists and influencers have been arrested in recent years – with several recent high-profile cases. Critics say freedom of speech is under serious threat. It wasn’t always this way. In 2018, Ghana was ranked the top country in Africa for press freedom by Reporters Without Borders. But in recent years it has dropped down the table and since the start of 2022 a handful of prominent journalists and social media influencers have been detained. We speak to those who say they are paying a price for the words they posted or broadcast, including radio presenter Bobie Ansah who faces a charge of “publication of false news and offensive conduct”. So what’s behind the crackdown, and is freedom of speech under attack? Presenter: Jonathan Griffin Producer: Favour Nunoo Photo: Oliver Barker-Vormawor, an activist recently arrested in Ghana, arrives at Ashaiman District Court on 28 February. Photo credit: Favour Nunoo/BBC
4/23/202218 minutes, 12 seconds
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Defecting online: How soldiers are deserting the Burmese army

Myanmar has been engulfed by a civil war which is getting deadlier and more violent as time goes on. Last year the Tatmadaw – the Burmese armed forces – overthrew the civilian-led government, led by Aung Sun Suu Kyi. Now they’re acting with impunity, allegedly committing heinous crimes against those who oppose them. In the past year many Tatmadaw soldiers – thousands, according to the opposition – have had second thoughts about their military service and are defecting to the other side. Trending has spoken to several of the defectors. They told us how they changed their minds, how they used social media to connect with the rebels and how they’re now using online tools to work against the military leaders they once served. Presenter: Reha Kansara Photo: Burmese soldiers line up with guns hoisted Photo Credit: Getty Images
4/16/202222 minutes, 3 seconds
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War scams: The criminals exploiting conflict in Ukraine

When war broke out in Ukraine, President Zelensky’s plea for financial aid triggered a wave of donations from ordinary people around the world. But scammers also heard the call. They fired into action, spreading emotional appeals into every corner of the internet. On TikTok, unverified war footage is being exploited by fraudsters, pushing viewers to send emoji hearts that can be swapped for hard cash. And fake websites and emails circulated, complete with heartbreaking stories designed to shake money from unwitting members of the public who just want to help. We track down a real-life doctor whose identity was stolen by a fake charity touting for Bitcoin. The message claimed to be from a clinic in Ukraine – but we found the real doctor in Mexico. And we speak to Unicef, whose brand has been hijacked by scammers, to ask how people can make sure their donations go to the right place. Reporter: Hannah Gelbart Producer: Sam Judah Special thanks to Cristina Criddle Photo credit: Getty Images
4/9/202218 minutes, 5 seconds
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8. Russia’s climate scepticism problem

In the eyes of the Kremlin, global warming is a threat that needs to be dealt with. So, President Putin is taking action: he wants Russia to go carbon neutral by 2060. And yet, Russia remains one of the world’s top producers of fossil fuels: oil and gas that bring in big money into the state’s coffers. And that poses a question: does Moscow mean business when it comes to climate action? If you look at the media, at what’s said in political circles, climate scepticism is still alive and kicking. Global warming is often portrayed as part of sinister Western cabal to hinder Russia’s economic progress. Trending and BBC Russian have been investigating where those views stem from, and how damaging they could be - not only for Russia, but for the entire planet.
12/11/202122 minutes, 38 seconds
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7. The truth behind Saudi’s eco-city

Saudi Arabia, one of the world's biggest oil producers, says it’s pivoting to green energy. It has a host of big projects and initiatives. But will reality live up to the country’s rhetoric? And why do some activists say they’ve become victims of the government’s grand plans? We’ve been looking at online chatter and PR campaigns pushing the country’s green credentials. At the same time, experts say Saudi officials are trying to secure the future of the country’s huge fossil fuel energy industry. And we hear from an activist who’s fighting on behalf of people displaced by NEOM, a brand new futuristic eco-city in the middle of the desert. Trending and BBC Arabic have been investigating the truth behind Saudi Arabia’s green plans, and we ask whether the government is really serious about reducing its reliance on fossil fuels. Presenter: Merlyn Thomas Producer: Reha Kansara Series producer: Vibeke Venema
12/4/202122 minutes, 55 seconds
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6. How bad information polluted the climate debate

Setting the record straight on some of the most common misleading narratives and tactics to explore what future climate change battlegrounds might look like. We look at how fossil fuel interest groups use division as a distraction: either stoking fear that action to tackle climate change will hurt the poor, or attacking the messengers who raise the alarm. And we take you back to the start of 2021, when blackouts in Texas which killed hundreds were misleadingly blamed on wind turbines. The idea that renewables, like solar or wind power, are dangerously unreliable has been a common theme. What’s the truth behind the claim? And how does bad information surface after extreme weather events and times of climate crisis?
11/27/202121 minutes, 3 seconds
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5. ‘We fight climate denial on Wikipedia’

At the grand old age of 20, Wikipedia remains one of the world’s most popular websites. The fact that anyone with internet access can edit its pages is a key part of its success. But the website’s openness to the public is also the reason why it has become an unlikely battleground on global warming. Despite the overwhelming body of science proving climate change is real and man-made, deniers are still active on Wikipedia. Whether it is by editing climate pages or spreading conspiracy theories, they have for a long time tried to reframe our understanding of climate change. But a small group of dedicated volunteers is determined to keep them at bay, setting the record straight on the facts and the science behind global warming. In this episode of the Denial Files, we set out to meet some of those volunteers and investigate how vulnerable Wikipedia remains to climate denial today.
11/20/202119 minutes, 21 seconds
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4. From Covid conspiracy to climate change denial

Covid conspiracists are now shifting focus to climate change. An online movement infected with extreme pandemic conspiracies is looking for new territory as debates over lockdowns and vaccines subside in many richer countries. We hear from Matthew in New Zealand. His family is really worried about the future of the planet, but he’s involved in groups where people believe that climate change is a “hoax” designed to limit our personal freedoms. They’ve swapped in “climate science” for “Covid” in their viral online conspiracy theories. Matthew found himself drawn into this conspiratorial belief system through a global anti-lockdown movement called The White Rose. The White Rose has local channels around the world, and researchers at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue think tank say the local group dedicated to New Zealand is where climate change conspiracies have taken off the most. Researchers point out that a ready-made network of people who have fallen for misleading claims about global Covid-19 plots has created a receptive audience for lies about climate change. And in Germany, we hear about how members of the Covid-denying Querdenken group travelled to a region devastated by floods, intimidating helpers and spreading confusion about what had taken place. Locals were mystified and insulted, but it was another sign that climate change has become the new front line in the fight against online misinformation. Presenter: Marianna Spring Reporter: Jessica Bateman Producer: Ant Adeane
11/13/202118 minutes, 31 seconds
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3. The good science of ‘bad Brazilians’

Brazil has pledged to end deforestation within a decade in a pledge signed by more than 100 nations at the COP26 climate summit. But do Brazilian leaders really believe in fighting climate change? Inside the country, climate change disinformation is thriving, while good and credible information is being undermined, even by the country’s own president. Influential voices with connections to the agriculture industry are spreading baseless conspiracy theories that man-made climate change is a hoax, invented by foreigners to hold the country’s economy back. Scientists at one of the government’s own agencies were accused of being “bad Brazilians” by President Jair Bolsonaro, after they produced data which showed an alarming rate of deforestation in the Amazon. The row resulted in the sacking of the head of the agency, who now fears the government is in the grip of climate change denialism. However, President Bolsonaro insists he is stepping up protection of the environment and has warned other countries not to meddle in Brazil’s internal affairs. Is the Amazon, one of the most important regions in the world for fighting climate change, safe in his hands?
11/6/202120 minutes, 22 seconds
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2. Big oil in the dock

Is big oil trying to mislead the public about what it’s doing about climate change? Several US states are suing some of the world’s largest oil and gas companies, accusing them of “greenwashing”. They claim the fossil fuel industry is deceiving consumers about how much it’s actually doing to tackle climate change. Accusations which are strongly denied by the companies who may face having to make huge compensation payouts if they lose in court. At the heart of many of these cases are adverts which highlight how energy giants are supporting greener, more sustainable solutions, but do not mention their much greater investment in developing new oil and gas fields. Questions about this alleged deception have now entered the political arena with big oil’s top brass being invited to appear before the US Congress. So, why do these lawsuits matter so much? In this episode, we head to Massachusetts where one such case is playing out in the courts.
10/30/202118 minutes, 20 seconds
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1. The 'd-words' v the planet

How much do disinformation and new forms of climate change denial threaten the fight to save the planet? In the first episode of a special new series running around the COP26 climate conference, BBC Trending speaks to a leading scientist who says the battle to prevent catastrophe may depend on winning the information war. Professor Michael Mann first made headlines in 1998 when he published the pioneering “hockeystick graph” which showed how carbon emissions caused by human activity are harming the planet. Since then mounting evidence has made it harder for the fossil fuel industry and its allies to deny the existence of man-made climate change. The overwhelming majority of scientists agree that we are now at a turning point where only urgent and dramatic action can save humanity. In November world leaders will gather at in Scotland to agree targets for cutting admissions. Many observers regard it as our last best chance to avert disaster. Professor Mann argues that in the face of this reality, what he calls “the forces of inaction” have developed new strategies to try to prevent humanity from kicking its addiction to oil, gas and coal. So does the future of life on earth depend on understanding the playbook of these new climate war tactics?
10/23/202117 minutes, 43 seconds
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Beirut blast: Looking for Eleni

When an Ethiopian woman called Eleni disappeared amid the chaos of the Beirut blast there seemed little hope of discovering what had happened to her. In the wake of the explosion that devastated the Lebanese capital, rescuers searched through the rubble to try to locate hundreds of dead and missing people. As the death toll mounted, the only clue to Eleni’s fate was a pool of blood on her employer’s kitchen floor. It fell to two complete strangers - who had never met Eleni or each other - to try to solve the mystery using social media. Presenter: Reha Kansara Producers: Najib Deeb, Abiy Getahun & Yadeta Berhanu Editor: Ed Main Photo: Graphic showing a highlighted profile picture of a woman among lots of other social media profile pictures. Photo credit: BBC
9/11/202118 minutes, 14 seconds
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The Kenyans who help the world to cheat

If a lazy student in London or New York goes online to pay somebody to do their essay, the chances are the work will actually end up being done by somebody in Kenya. So who are the African ghost writers who are paid to help wealthy foreigners fake their way to unearned success, and what do they think about what they do? Kenya has become a key hub in the international cheating industry, because it is an English-speaking country with a good education system, but where there are often limited economic opportunities, particularly for younger people. Thousands of people are making a living supplying faked assignments commissioned by unethical students in other countries, through websites mainly based in the US and Eastern Europe. Many of those employed to do this work are students themselves. Although essay selling offers some a route out of poverty, universities say it is increasingly undermining the integrity of education around the world. And there are calls, even from within Kenya, for action against this booming online industry. Presenter: Reha Kansara Producer: Michael Kaloki Editor: Ed Main Photo: Graphic of hand writing an essay while another hand takes it and offers cash Photo credit: BBC
9/4/202119 minutes, 10 seconds
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The cops weaponising copyright

Could your favourite song be used to cover up the misdeeds of the police? Officers across the US have been filmed playing music - out loud - on their phones in public. They weren’t hoping this unusual display would make them go viral on social media. In fact, the aim was quite the opposite. Some officers believe that by blasting music while being filmed, the videos would get blocked by automatic copyright protection software and activists wouldn’t be able to post them online. Should we be concerned by these attempts to evade scrutiny by gaming technology, and do they even work? Presenter: Sam Judah Editor: Ed Main Image: A graphic of a police officer with a mobile phone in his breast pocket blaring out music. Image copyright: BBC
8/28/202118 minutes, 23 seconds
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Nesara: The financial fantasy ruining lives

Nesara is a decades-old conspiracy theory whose followers believe all their debts will be magically cancelled in a radical reset of the world’s economic system. It’s a bizarre and baseless idea whose promoters peddle a vision of a financial neverneverland that is always just round the corner. Many of those who get sucked in, develop an almost cult-like belief in Nesara that inspires them to make horrific financial decisions that they think will make them rich. It’s a fantasy whose real life impact is dividing families and ruining lives. So why during the Covid-19 pandemic has Nesara become more popular than ever? Presenters: Jonathan Griffin & Shayan Sardarizadeh Additional reporting: Olga Robinson Editor: Ed Main Photo: A graphic of a banknote with an N at the centre. Photo credit: BBC
8/21/202119 minutes, 33 seconds
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Who is TikTok’s masked vigilante?

Think you’re safe being an anonymous TikTok troll or cyber bully? Think again. The Great Londini could be your worst nightmare come true. You might think you’re anonymous - but if you leave a threatening, racist or homophobic comment on someone’s video, Londini will find out who you are. If you’re a kid, he’ll contact your parents or your school. If you’re an adult, he'll really tell on you. In just a few months, the mysterious online vigilante has gained a huge following for his efforts to clean up TikTok. Londini says he’s doing the job that the platform should be. But does social media need moderation vigilantes - or are they a problem in themselves? Presenter: Sophia Smith Galer Editor: Ed Main Photo: The Great Londini Photo credit: BBC
8/13/202117 minutes, 58 seconds
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Anti-vaxxers only

As the pandemic progresses, some opponents of Covid-19 vaccines are taking things one step further. An emerging international grassroots movement is seeking to create online and offline communities away from the vaccinated world. Trending meets the people who are setting up dating sites, house share groups, even blood banks specifically for the unvaccinated only. Underpinning many of these efforts is the totally unfounded belief in “vaccine shedding” - the false idea that the unvaccinated can be made ill simply by being around people who have had a coronavirus jab. But will any of these alternatives to mainstream society take root? Presenters: Marianna Spring & Chris Giles Producer: Sam Judah Editor: Ed Main Photo: Graphic of hand holding mobile phone with dating app onscreen. Photo credit: BBC
8/7/202118 minutes, 4 seconds
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The TikTok news revolution

TikTok became successful by being the app for watching viral dance videos. But with global downloads of the app recently topping three billion, it’s also increasingly a place where users are also going to find news - though not any old news. While traditional media organisations are struggling to gain a foothold on the platform, a wave of fresh and diverse creators are finding innovative ways to present the news in a style that engages TikTok’s massive young audience. Trending explores the potential and the pitfalls of news on TikTok. We hear from the journalist who makes comedy videos in which he plays a Covid-19 variant and his dad. And we meet the man who is the biggest star in TikTok news - who despite his fame still has to work other jobs to make ends meet. Presenter: Jonathan Griffin Reporter: Abbie Richards Producer: Matt Munday Editor: Ed Main Photo: Collage of TikTok news creators Photo credit: BBC/TikTok
7/31/202117 minutes, 51 seconds
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The anti-vax influencer plot that flopped

Who was behind a secret plot to pay social media stars to falsely discredit the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine? Trending investigates an attempt to weaponise the power of influencer marketing in the online disinformation war over the pandemic. In May this year a marketing agency contacted influencers in several countries with an extraordinary offer. A mystery client was offering big money if the influencers would use their YouTube and Instagram videos to spread lies about the health risks associated with the Pfizer vaccine. The anonymous sponsor wanted them to pretend they weren’t being paid so the fake message would appear genuine. The plan failed spectacularly when several influencers went public and blew the whistle. But who was behind it and what were their motives? Presenter: Charlie Haynes Reporter: Flora Carmichael Editor: Ed Main Photo: French YouTuber Leo Grasset Photo credit: Leo Grasset
7/24/202118 minutes, 23 seconds
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Vaccine heroes fight back

Nicole is a paediatrician in Ohio who was shocked when she received a ton of nasty comments on one of her online videos. Her “mistake” was providing reliable, evidence-based information about vaccines. It meant that anti-vaccine activists targeted her. But with the help of a group of volunteer medical professionals called Shots Heard Around the World, she led a fight back against abuse and disinformation. The pandemic is far from over – but there are signs that science is winning out over hardcore anti-vaccine lies. In the final episode of the series, we reveal the extent of vaccine disinformation in countries around the world. And we meet some of the volunteers on the frontlines of the push back. They’re filling in some of the gaps, but shouldn’t that be the job of the social media companies? We quiz a Facebook executive about whether their policies and systems are really working. Presenter: Mike Wendling Reporter: Marianna Spring Producer: Ant Adeane
5/8/202118 minutes, 41 seconds
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Brazil’s bubble of bad information

A helicopter carrying vaccines is greeted in a by a crowd in an indigenous village – and the villagers are armed with bows and arrows. It’s just one, thankfully rare incident. But it’s a symptom of the creeping misinformation hitting some of Brazil’s most remote communities. But rather than being a vestige of traditional ideas or village life, rumours about health and vaccines are being spread in a very modern way. Mobile phone operators in Brazil often include free data in their user plans, but the package is limited only to select social media platforms. These plans, popular in poorer, rural and indigenous communities, allow Brazilians to spend hours online for free – but limit access to other apps and alternative sources of online information. It means Brazil’s poorest can find themselves unable to check what they’re reading on chat apps – and stuck in a misinformation bubble. And the fact that some religious and political leaders – including President Jair Bolsonaro – have been spreading falsehoods and anti-vax messages doesn’t help either. In Brazil, the uptake of vaccines in indigenous communities is now significantly lower than expected – but the news isn’t all bad. We meet indigenous people trying to convince their families to take the jab. Presenter: Mike Wendling Reporter: Juliana Gragnani Producer: Jonathan Griffin
5/1/202120 minutes
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The rise of India’s ‘Covid quack’

As India struggles with a surge in Covid-19 cases, it is also dealing with a wave of misinformation about the virus and vaccines. Although now banned from Facebook and YouTube, self-proclaimed nutritionist Biswaroop Roy Chowdhury built his social media stardom by claiming that conventional medicine is almost entirely wrong about coronavirus. Labelled a dangerous “quack” by his critics, Chowdhury has a track record of spreading outrageous medical falsehoods. He is opposed to all vaccines and even claims AIDS is not caused by HIV. During the global pandemic he has gained a new audience by spreading conspiracy theories about Covid-19, which he calls “the scandal of the millennium”. Chowdhury says – contrary to scientific evidence - that masks and lockdowns are harmful and warns that hospital treatment only increases a patient’s chances of dying. He claims to have “cured” thousands of Covid-19 patients through diet alone and has set up a course where followers can pay to learn his methods. We challenge his bogus claims and uncover new details about the death of one of his followers. Presenter: Mike Wendling Reporter: Reha Kansara Producer: Ed Main With reporting by: Shruti Menon, BBC Reality Check, Delhi
4/24/202127 minutes, 30 seconds
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One woman’s escape from the rabbit hole

Catherine’s family believed in alternative medicine and she grew up in relatively poor, fringe communities that didn’t have much to do with mainstream science or Britain’s national health system. And when social media became a big part of her life, she started believing in all sorts of wild conspiracy theories. But when she slowly realised that she was being conned by some of the pseudoscientists and charlatans she had put her trust in, she started to turn a sceptical eye on her online sources. Catherine now lives a quiet life in southern England with her family, gardening and selling clothes at festivals. She also dedicates her free time to spreading reliable information about medicine and science online. It’s a mission that’s become ever more urgent throughout the global pandemic. Her story gives us insight into why people fall victim to anti-vaccine conspiracy theories - and what can help them to get out. Presenter: Mike Wendling Reporter: Marianna Spring Producer: Joseph Martin
4/17/202127 minutes, 34 seconds
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Targeting Germany’s youth

The Querdenken (in English, “lateral thinking”) sprung up last summer – it’s Germany’s anti-vaccine, Covid-denying, anti-lockdown movement, and it’s created a new crop of social media figures. The baseless conspiracy theories they spread have got more extreme over time – and one man in particular has used parents’ worries about the impact of lockdown on their children as a vehicle for false narratives. Samuel Eckert, a former evangelical preacher, runs a private Telegram group for under-18s called Samuel Eckert Youngsters. There are more than 300 children involved, all aged between 10-17, despite Telegram only being open to those aged 16 and above. Eckert says the group is for Covid-sceptic children to meet and support each other. An inside source tells us that the children adore Eckert, post selfies with him - and some even refer to him as “father”. But the children involved have also been exposed to far-right content, and some have been bullied for their views. What really goes on inside Germany’s secret Telegram group for Covid-sceptic teens? Presenter: Mike Wendling Reporter: Jessica Bateman Producer: Reha Kansara
4/10/202124 minutes, 44 seconds
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South Africa's imported 'infodemic'

Recent surveys indicate that there might be rising scepticism about vaccines in South Africa. But even before the coronavirus pandemic started, the Rainbow Nation was battling a tide of anti-vaccine misinformation online. And one study found that although there is a relatively small group of South African anti-vaccine activists, they are being bolstered by a wave of material coming from abroad. We meet a pharmacist who has been tracking the alarming reach of that small group of hardcore anti-vaccinators for the last five years. And we hear how the country’s class system contributes to a big divide in willingness to take vaccines. Plus we hear from the activists staging a fightback against the Covid-19 “infodemic”. Sarah is a mole in a number of anti-vax chat app groups and runs a pro-vaccine Facebook page aimed at countering their disinformation. But can she convince someone with questions about vaccines to actually get one? Pres: Mike Wendling Reporter: Jonathan Griffin Additional production: Jack Goodman
4/3/202117 minutes, 51 seconds
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France’s misinformation fight

France is one of the most vaccine sceptical countries in the world. A recent poll suggests just 40% of French people intend to take a Covid-19 vaccine, but what's fuelling the doubt? We meet the superstar doctor whose anti-authoritarian zeal has inspired an army of devotees, and the conspiracy obsessed shaman with a huge following on social media. Plus, the activists staging a fightback. “Marie” runs a pro-vaccine Facebook group aimed at countering disinformation but wants to remain anonymous following a string of death threats. And Tristan Mendes France works with the team behind “Conspiracy Watch”, a site that keeps a close eye on the spread of toxic information online. Presenter: Mike Wendling Reporter: Marianna Spring Producer: Sam Judah
3/27/202119 minutes, 26 seconds
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How anti-vax went viral

Scientists say only a vaccine will really get us out of the Covid-19 pandemic. So why has the anti-vaccine movement grown stronger than ever over the last year? In the first episode of this new series, BBC Trending and a team of disinformation reporters will investigate how hardcore anti-vaccine activists have used social media to spread their message far and wide, capitalising on fear and mistrust to advance their own agendas. We’re not talking about legitimate medical debate or questions that people have about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines. No, we’re talking about completely debunked conspiracy theories – that the vaccines contain microchips in order to track everyone who takes them, that they will make you infertile or are poisonous, or that they will alter your DNA. Exclusive research by BBC Monitoring shows just how popular far anti-vaccine material has spread on Facebook and Instagram. With the help of some of the world’s leading researchers, we investigate how these posts increase vaccine hesitancy and find out how some fringe activists are turning their online efforts into real-world action. Presenter: Mike Wendling
3/20/202120 minutes, 35 seconds
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Votes, viruses, victims: 2020 in disinformation

From the global pandemic to the US election, the extraordinary events of 2020 have both fuelled, and been shaped by, the online spread of falsehoods, propaganda and bizarre conspiracy theories. Trending’s Mike Wendling and Marianna Spring, the BBC’s specialist disinformation reporter, look back at some of the most viral rumours, how they debunked them, and discover what happened next. Producers: Jonathan Griffin and Sam Judah Picture caption: Photo illustration of a phone showing “fake news” Picture credit: BBC
12/25/202049 minutes, 15 seconds
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The truth behind a ‘woke’ Instagram network

It sounds like a dream proposition. A company with a big online following messages you out of the blue, asking you to represent them as a “brand ambassador”. They promise you a boost in Instagram followers, and a discount on their products. And they even promise to donate large sums to charity. But take away the rosy filter, and the reality does not look quite so good. New followers aren’t guaranteed. And the products for sale are so vastly overpriced that even with the discount, you’re losing out. And perhaps most ethically dubious of all, we’ve found a network of accounts making false or dubious claims about charity contributions. The accounts pledge large chunks of their profits to environmental projects, racial justice, LGBT rights organisations and other progressive causes that many are passionate about. The word “woke” comes to mind. But we’ve discovered that these accounts often fail when it comes to delivering the profits – and the goods for sale. Presenter: Reha Kansara Reporter: Sean Allsop Picture: Screenshot of a now-deleted account pledging charitable donations. Picture credit: Instagram/BBC
11/28/202021 minutes, 33 seconds
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The roots of Donald Trump’s ‘voter fraud’ strategy

A Facebook group named Stop the Steal sprung up in the hours after the US presidential election. Within hours it had gained hundreds of thousands of followers. Members alleged the election had been “rigged”, despite a lack of evidence. But this claim came from the very top. Months before, President Trump was planting seeds of doubt over the vote – mentioning “voter fraud” and similar phrases more than 70 times on Twitter. BBC Trending looks into some of the most viral specific allegations – and we find out how “Stop the Steal” members kept pushing rumours built on disinformation. Presenters: Marianna Spring and Mike Wendling Picture: Protesters hold signs with the “Stop the Steal” slogan at a pro-Trump rally Credit: Getty Images
11/21/202025 minutes
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Doxxed and hacked In Hong Kong

The fight over democracy in Hong Kong continues. In the week that pro-democracy lawmakers resigned en masse in protest at the sacking of four of their colleagues, we take a look at the secretive struggles happening online. Trade union leader Carol Ng was shocked to find her phone number and photo on a mysterious website – HK Leaks – which lists names and personal details of some 1,800 activists. Who is behind the site? It appears to be hosted in Russia, but many believe it’s a smear campaign driven by the Chinese authorities. Also featured on the site is Nathan Law, one of Hong Kong’s youngest-ever lawmakers. He fled to the UK in the wake of a new security law. We meet him in London, where he tells us about “government backed” attempts to hack his online accounts, and also about his unique relationship with California’s social media giants. Big tech appears to be standing shoulder to shoulder with the activists, and protecting them from government intrusion online – but that doesn’t mean the companies want to say much about it. Facebook, Google and others have previously tried to court the Chinese government, in hopes of gaining access to an enormous new market. So this time around, are the firms acting out of nobility – or are there more strategic forces at play? Presenter: Sam Judah (Photo: Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Nathan Law. Credit: Getty Images)
11/14/202018 minutes, 18 seconds
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How to be a social media star… without the internet

Wasil is well known for his funny, flirtatious satirical videos. But he also lives in Indian-administered Kashmir, which is arguably one of the least-connected places on earth. The internet is often cut off or slowed down to a trickle. It’s one of a number of measures the Indian government has taken to restrict information in the province. The government says the measures are necessary to clamp down on militants – but rights organisations call them a serious breach of civil liberties. For Wasil, it makes making and uploading content extremely difficult. Even worse, his career came to a crashing halt when the Indian government banned the app where he has his biggest following - TikTok. The longest continuous internet blackout in Kashmir began more than a year ago. So how is he coping? Presenter: Reha Kansara (Photo: Wasil with the sun setting behind him, Credit: Wasi)l
11/7/202022 minutes, 15 seconds
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Sex, monks and video fakes

Luon Sovath is a softly spoken Buddhist monk who has long been a thorn in the side of the Cambodian government. And now, he’s been targeted by a state-sponsored disinformation campaign. Earlier this year, a series of mysterious videos appeared on Facebook, accusing him of having affairs with four women from the same family. Soon after he was defrocked and charged with raping another woman, one who didn’t feature in the videos. Luon Sovath denies all the allegations, and fled the country to go into exile in Switzerland. He and his supporters say he was the victim of an obvious smear campaign. Human rights organisations say the people responsible didn’t cover their tracks very well – and that officials operate with impunity in Cambodia. Should Facebook have moved quicker to disrupt an online plot to destroy a powerful voice for the powerless? Presenter: Reha Kansara Reporter: Ed Main Photo: Luon Sovath in the Swiss countryside Photo credit: Luon Sovath
10/31/202023 minutes, 1 second
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Help! My mum is a conspiracy influencer

What would you do if your mum became a conspiracy theory influencer? Kate Shemirani is one of Twitter’s most popular anti-mask, anti-vaccine, anti-5G activists. She calls coronavirus a “plandemic” and a “scandemic”, makes the false claim that 5G radio waves cause the symptoms of the disease and even says, contrary to all the evidence, that the virus that causes Covid-19 doesn’t exist. She’s built up a huge following on social media, speaks to rallies in London and encourages people to ignore guidelines on social distancing and mask wearing recommended by health authorities and written into law. Her influence on public health has grown so much that one popular British newspaper recently asked: “Is this the most dangerous woman in Britain?” But her son is worried that his mum has gone down the rabbit hole – and he’s sounding a warning for others who might be in the same situation. Sebastian Shemirani describes how conspiracy theories always had a grip on his mother, but the coronavirus pandemic thrust her into the public eye. Conspiracy theories have torn the family apart – and now Sebastian has spoken exclusively to the BBC about the toll it has taken on him. Plus we hear from experts about the right way to talk to friends and family members who are being drawn in by conspiracy theories. Presented by Jonathan Griffin and Marianna Spring Photo: Sebastian Shemirani Photo credit: BBC
10/24/202019 minutes, 5 seconds
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Disinfo wars and the all-American ‘troll farm’

The 2016 US election was beset by so-called “fake news” – but what’s happening this time around? Four years ago, fictitious and scandalous news articles emanating from Russian backed troll farms went viral. Some even claim it may have changed the course of the election. Now a new disinformation battle is raging, but this time the game has changed. Instead of creating content overseas, a number of campaigns have been discovered enlisting American citizens in creating content designed to destabilise the political landscape. That’s what happened to Colin Wood, a freelance writer from Binghamton, New York. He was delighted to start writing for a new left-wing website called PeaceData. But as he soon learned, the site was being coordinated by people connected with Russia’s Internet Research Agency, the notorious troll farm responsible for much of the disinformation created in 2016. The site’s editors turned out to be completely fictional, their social media profile photos generated by artificial intelligence. And another disinformation campaign was unearthed, designed and coordinated entirely on US soil. Turning Point, a right-wing lobby group, paid teenagers to systematically repost messages casting doubt on the legitimacy of the election. Was the swift discovery of these networks a good news story? Or does it just show that disinformation is now an inextricable part of American politics? Presenter: Mike Wendling Reporter: Sam Judah Picture credit: Getty Images
10/17/202019 minutes, 41 seconds
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QAnon and the rabbit hole election

Millions of Americans are tuning into an alternative US election campaign. This one isn’t full of sobering news about the pandemic, the Supreme Court and the American economy – instead it’s filled with chatter about elite cabals, rumours and allegations of the most vile crimes. The rabbit hole election is a subterranean campaign taking place online. And there's one conspiracy theory in particular that is spreading widely and is becoming increasingly well-known among voters: QAnon. At its heart is the completely unfounded claim that Donald Trump is fighting a secret war against a “deep state” of satanic paedophiles. But could this unhinged idea actually have an impact on the upcoming election? We’ve been investigating. Presenter: Mike Wendling Reporter: Marianna Spring Producer: Ant Adeane
10/10/202018 minutes, 47 seconds
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Did a state news agency troll its critics?

The people in charge wanted state-run news agency Notimex to become the “BBC of Mexico”. And after President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador was elected in 2018, he appointed people who took on that mission. But now the agency has been rocked by allegations that it targeted online abuse at former employees and critical independent journalists. An investigation by three organisations alleges that people among the most senior Notimex executives orchestrated the use of fake accounts to attack people they didn’t like. We find out how the trolling campaigns worked, speak to people who have been at the receiving end of the messages, and even talk to someone who admits they were told to carry out orders from the top. Presenter: Reha Kansara Producer: Marcos Martinez Picture: Photo illustration of an anonymous troll Picture credit: Getty Images
8/8/202020 minutes, 19 seconds
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Why do some influencers back bad products?

If you're on Instagram, you'll have seen influencers promoting all sorts of products - from gadgets to clothes or food. But can you really trust their recommendations? A BBC investigation found a number of top influencers pushing products that are fake and poor quality. There’s no evidence to suggest these social media stars knew they were openly promoting questionable brands and companies. And yet, many customers say the only reason why they bought these products was because influencers suggested they ought to. So should social media stars be held accountable for the promotional deals they make? We explore the dark underbelly of influencer marketing. Presenter: Marco Silva Reporter: Omar Mehtab Additional production: Osman Iqbal Picture caption: Stock photo of a social media influencer filming herself. Picture credit: Getty Images
8/1/202019 minutes
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QAnon and on and on

It’s bursting into the mainstream – a bizarre conspiracy theory that casts US President Donald Trump as its hero. QAnon claims that the president is secretly fighting a cabal of high-placed paedophiles in Hollywood and the so-called “deep state”. But why has it had an apparent surge in popularity during the global pandemic? Since it first emerged in an anonymous post on an online message board in 2017, QAnon has developed into a movement which is now making inroads into the American political psyche. However, many families of QAnon followers feel they have lost their relatives to a dangerous cult. Several people have been arrested plotting attacks while seemingly under the influence of the conspiracy theory. This week Twitter banned thousands of QAnon-themed accounts, but it’s likely that at least one adherent will enter the US Congress after elections in November. What role might this strange belief system play in US politics? Presenter: Mike Wendling Reporter: Stephanie Hegarty Picture caption: A man in a crowd flashes a QAnon T-shirt Picture credit: Getty Images
7/25/202023 minutes, 33 seconds
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The online heroes of the coronavirus pandemic

They’re going viral for all the right reasons. Health care workers, scientists and experts have been spreading sound facts and solid advice about coronavirus. It’s a push back against all the misinformation, speculation and conspiracy theories that have been swirling around about the pandemic. In this programme we’ll meet four Covid-19 information heroes – from India, the US, and the UK. Each comes from a different background, and they all have different motivations driving what they’re doing online. So what are their strategies for getting sound science to the public? And in a social media world fuelled by emotion, how do they reflect both the facts and the human toll of the disease? Presenter: Mike Wendling Reporter: Sean Allsop Photo Caption: Illustration of a phone with a heart Photo Credit: Getty Images/BBC
7/18/202020 minutes, 32 seconds
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How to talk about conspiracy theories

We’ve all been there – that awkward situation that happens over the dinner table or at a party, when someone starts talking about conspiracy theories. With the coronavirus pandemic has come a huge wave of novel online misinformation – including some outlandish ideas and panicky people who are buying into them. So what do you do when confronted with someone who starts spouting obvious falsehoods about “evil plots” and “deadly vaccines”? Trending brings together a man who’s been drawn towards social media’s fringes and an expert who studies the psychology of people who believe in conspiracy theories. What happened when they sat down for a socially distanced chat? Plus we give some tips on how to talk to people who are edging towards the rabbit hole. Presenter: Jonathan Griffin Reporter: Marianna Spring Photo caption: Woman wearing a mask looking at a computer screen Photo credit: Getty Images
7/11/202019 minutes, 16 seconds
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Who spread the ‘5G coronavirus’ conspiracy theory?

In April, dozens of mobile phone towers were set on fire across Britain and demonstrators took to the streets to protest the rollout of 5G. They had the bizarre and entirely false idea that phone towers were somehow causing coronavirus. Fake news and conspiracy theories were given a huge boost by the Covid-19 pandemic, and many of the whispers coalesced around politicians, scientists, and former Microsoft chief executive Bill Gates. They weren’t true of course, so why did people believe them? We speak to protestors who were sucked into the rabbit hole - and question one of the key players responsible for spreading the myth. Presenters: Mike Wendling and Marianna Spring Producer: Sam Judah Photo caption: A mobile phone tower Photo credit: Getty Images
7/4/202018 minutes, 29 seconds
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The scammers promising poison on Facebook

They seem to be selling a deadly chemical, and have no qualms about offering it to people who may be at risk of suicide. But is their business what it seems - or just an elaborate scam? A Trending investigation has uncovered dozens of pages claiming to sell a highly toxic substance that, in many countries, cannot be bought without a licence. While the substance has some industrial uses, the supposed sellers running these pages have their eyes on a different type of customer: someone looking online for a way to take their own life. Facebook says it won’t allow content on their platform that encourages suicide – yet some of these pages have been running for several years. Experts say they are a scam – but how exactly does it work? We went undercover to investigate the shadowy pages peddling deadly poison. If you are affected by the issues in this programme, you can find information about support organisations on the Befrienders Worldwide website: Presenter: Marco Silva (Photo caption: illustration of a smartphone showing a bottle of poison containing Facebook logos/ Photo credit: BBC)
6/27/202018 minutes, 25 seconds
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Can viral videos stop police brutality?

It was a brutal killing which captured the attention of the US and the world. But the death of George Floyd wouldn’t have caused such an outcry if it hadn’t been captured on camera. The person who shot that famous video was 17-year-old Minneapolis resident Darnella Frazier. Her footage, along with other angles captured by other witnesses on that day in late May, galvanised a social media wave and prompted protests around the world. But are viral videos really an effective check on police abuse? We talk to the experts, look at the evidence – and talk to witnesses and people on the front lines of the protests. Presenter: Michael Wendling Reporter: Reha Kansara Picture caption: A protest sign reading “No justice, no peace” Picture credit: Getty Images
6/20/202028 minutes, 46 seconds
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The children’s video game that turned toxic

It’s full of garish colours and blocky animals. Club Penguin was a huge smash for Disney upon its release 15 years ago. And an unofficial version became an unlikely comeback hit during the coronavirus pandemic, with millions of new players. But things have gone downhill quickly. The unofficial version is outside of the entertainment giant’s control, and a BBC investigation found that moderation is lax to non-existent. Cybersecurity correspondent Joe Tidy donned his undercover avatar and discovered widespread bullying, sexual content, and racist abuse. Disney says it’s “appalled” by the unofficial version of the game and has ordered it to be shut down, and parents say it shouldn’t exist anymore. So how did Club Penguin turn sour? Presenter: Jonathan Griffin Reporter: Joe Tidy Picture caption: A screengrab from the Club Penguin game Picture credit: Disney/Club Penguin Power down sound effect courtesy of qubodup.
6/13/202018 minutes, 33 seconds
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Are Instagrammers ruining nature?

A beautiful shot in the wild can get thousands of likes – but some influencers are going too far. We speak to a nature lover who’s had enough. He says that disrespect of nature has risen alongside the popularity of social media. So he’s fighting fire with fire, with an Instagram account called Public Lands Hate You. His more than 70,000 followers and fans – and a host of similar accounts – call out influencers who damage national parks and break the rules of open spaces. Some Instagrammers are getting the message, and welcome the intervention. But Public Lands Hate You also has its fair share of opponents, with some saying it incites hate. Presenter: Mike Wendling Reporter: Sean Allsop Photo caption: A woman takes a selfie in a field of wildflowers Photo credit: Getty Images
6/6/202018 minutes, 37 seconds
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The human cost of viral misinformation

What’s the human cost of viral misinformation? In an exclusive report, we track the worldwide effects of bad information about coronavirus. Misleading info has led to deaths in the US, alcohol poisonings in Iran, drug overdoses in Nigeria and Vietnam, religious violence in India and arsons by people convinced by conspiracy theories. It’s a sobering tally of the human effects of so-called “fake news”. So what can we do to stop it? Presenter: Reha Kansara Reporter: Marianna Spring Picture caption: Brian Lee Hitchens believed conspiracy thoeries about coronavirus – until he and his wife became seriously ill with the disease. Picture credit: Brian Lee Hitchens
5/30/202025 minutes, 5 seconds
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Inside the world of the meninists

On Facebook and Reddit, they’ve collected hundreds of thousands of members with their criticisms of feminism and campaigning on a range of gender issues. We’ve visited the International Conference on Men’s Issues in Chicago to meet the internet personalities driving the men’s rights movement. They say they’re looking out for men and boys. But their critics claim this conference is just a “gathering of insecure and sexist man-babies”. So what’s the truth - who are the men’s rights activists? Presenter: Mike Wendling Reporter: Jonathan Griffin Picture credit: BBC
5/23/202018 minutes, 49 seconds
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What happens after you go viral?

Two stories about viral stories that kicked off deep debate about social issues. What happened when social media moved on? Randa Jarrar, a university professor, tweeted a provocative – and many would say deeply offensive – message after the death of former US First Lady Barbara Bush. It went viral and hit a nerve in a country riveted by debates over free speech and its limits, especially on college campuses. And you may remember the story of the jogger who was caught on video throwing a homeless man’s possessions into a lake in Oakland, California. The incident eventually led to criminal charges for the jogger, and also sparked an outpouring of sympathy for the homeless man. But what happened next – yes, you guessed it – might surprise you. Presenter: Mike Wendling Reporter: Chris Bell (Photo Caption: Photo illustration featuring Randa Jarrar (centre) / Photo Credit: Getty Images)
5/2/202025 minutes, 11 seconds
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How scammers are exploiting coronavirus fears

Where some see a crisis, others see an opportunity… For the past few weeks, hackers and scammers around the world have been busy using the confusion and anxiety created by coronavirus as cover for dangerous and illegal activities. From phishing emails to bogus cures and treatments, their scams have taken a number of different forms. BBC Trending turns the spotlight on the darkest corners of the web and analyses some of the scams and hacks that have emerged since the coronavirus outbreak began. Presenter: Marco Silva (Photo: illustration of a magnifying glass hovering over a laptop that has received malicious content/Credits: BBC)
4/18/202025 minutes, 46 seconds
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How coronavirus is changing online dating

It seems like everything’s being changed by coronavirus – and love is no exception. Dating apps are often a first point of call when people want to meet someone new, but the real-world meetups that used to spring from online conversations are now impossible in many areas under lockdown. So how are people using tech to meet new partners during this global pandemic? We talk to people in Iran, India and Italy to find out how love is operating in lockdown. Will the virus result in a long-lasting shift in attitudes towards dating – and what do people plan to do first once the restrictions are over? Presenter: Reha Kansara Photo: Illustration of a woman wearing a mask on a phone Photo credit: Getty Images
4/11/202028 minutes, 35 seconds
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How to stop viral misinformation

We’re in the middle of an “infodemic” – that’s the slightly clunky word the World Health Organisation has used to describe the deluge of information about coronavirus. While some of it is accurate, the facts swim in a vast sea of more dubious content – misinformation, disinformation, conspiracy theories, unproven cures and bad health advice. So what can we all do to stop the spread of misinformation to our friends, family and contacts on social media? We’ve talked to the experts and have collected seven key tips: 1. Stop and think 2. Check your source 3. Ask yourself, could it be a fake? 4. If you’re unsure whether it’s true … don’t share. 5. Check each fact, individually. 6. Beware emotional posts. 7. Think about biases Think of it as the digital equivalent of washing your hands.
4/4/202018 minutes, 35 seconds
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How bad coronavirus info goes viral

There's a huge amount of misleading information circulating online about coronavirus - bad advice, conspiracy theories, dodgy health tips and more. This week Trending delves into one specific viral post. It's a list of supposed facts about the virus and what you can do to protect yourself. Some of the tips are true, some are false but relatively harmless, and some are potentially dangerous. The list was first put on Facebook in early February and has since been dubbed the "uncle with master's" degree post, because of the alleged source of the information. It hopped from Singapore to India to England and has been sent to us by listeners all around the world who are rightfully suspicious of its contents. Along the way it mutated - it has incorporated new and more dangerous false information, and has been translated into at least half a dozen languages. So who's behind the post and how did it spread? We get to the bottom of this mystery. And we give some crucial pointers about how you can avoid spreading bad information. Presenter: Mike Wendling Reporter: Marianna Spring With reporting by: Olga Robinson, BBC Monitoring Photo: Photo illustration of social network logos and coronavirus Photo credit: BBC
3/28/202019 minutes, 55 seconds
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The fight against Poland’s ‘LGBT free zones’

New laws are being passed across Poland taking aim at the LGBT community. They’ve been called “LGBT free zones” as a shorthand. While they don’t necessarily mean that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are being thrown into prison, they are having a chilling effect on the community. The laws have contributed to a more general climate of conflict and fear. In 2019, violence broke out at several equality marches after far-right groups held counter demonstrations. After one such clash, LGBT activists fought back with a hashtag campaign - which led to more protests on the streets. We meet the activists who are rallying support and the counter demonstrators who organise against them. And we find out whether young LGBT people in Poland are planning to leave the country – or stay put. Presenter: Mike Wendling Reporter: Ben Hunte Producer: Sean Allsop Picture caption: Anti-LGBT protesters burn a rainbow flag at a demonstration last year in Bialystok in Poland Picture credit: BBC
3/21/202019 minutes, 38 seconds
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What happened when a troll met his target?

Alan commutes into London where he works as a concierge. In his spare time he composes songs with political themes. But his beliefs also fuel a much uglier hobby: leaving nasty messages online – often hateful, racist and threatening. One of those at the receiving end of his abuse is a high-profile political activist and businesswoman. Gina Miller gets so much abuse from people like Alan that she travels everywhere with security. At our request, they have agreed to meet. What happens next might surprise you. Presenter: Reha Kansara Reporter: Marianna Spring (Photo Caption: A troll in the shadows / Photo Credit: Getty images)
3/13/202024 minutes, 2 seconds
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Did Russia leak British secrets online?

How did a trove of confidential government documents end up on social media… And is Russia to blame? As the UK prepared to go to the polls in December, sensitive documents outlining ongoing US-UK trade talks were published on Reddit. They made for potentially explosive reading and were rapidly seized upon by opposition politicians. But the origin of the leak soon aroused suspicions. When investigators looked at how the documents were spread online, they soon found striking similarities to a disinformation operation originating in Russia. But is there any evidence that the Russian state was behind the leaks? And were the documents authentic? We take a careful look at the clues left behind by a social media user going by the name of “Gregoratior” and uncover a shadowy network of whispers, forgeries, and social media deception. Presenter: Mike Wendling Reporter: Marco Silva (Photo Caption: illustration of confidential UK government documents held in front of a Russian flag / Photo Credit: BBC)
3/6/202020 minutes, 40 seconds
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Life after YouTube fame

Dax Flame was once YouTube royalty – his channel was among the top 20 in the early years of the site. He parlayed his social media fame into an acting and writing career. But then work dried up and he stopped making YouTube videos. Now, Dax works in a restaurant and tries to scrape together money for rent, food and headshots. But he’s still hopeful that his career might take off again. We follow Dax as he tries to get back on track – and we explore a mystery that has followed him around the internet for more than a decade. Are his videos “real” – or was he acting? Presenter: Reha Kansara Reporter: Mike Wendling Additional production: James Stewart (Photo: Dax Flame, who was once one of YouTube’s biggest stars)
2/28/202026 minutes, 6 seconds
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The ‘online slave market’ aided by Silicon Valley

Women in Kuwait are being bought and sold on apps available on the most popular online platforms. Experts call it an ‘online slave market’ - supported by Silicon Valley companies. BBC News Arabic has gone undercover to expose the users who buy and sell domestic workers. The traffickers repeatedly break Kuwaiti law - using racist language as part of their sales pitch, confiscating their domestic worker’s passports, withholding their salaries and making the women work excessive hours. Our investigation found that despite the human rights violations, the apps were still available on major platforms. Since news of the scandal broke, has anything changed? Presenter: Jonathan Griffin Reporter: Jess Kelly Picture: Credit: BBC
11/30/201918 minutes, 42 seconds
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The grannies against the far-right

They were just children when Adolf Hitler's rule came to an end, but they will never forget the horrors the Nazis inflicted on their families. A group of Austrian grandmothers is determined not to let younger generations forget about the dangers of far-right ideologies. As right-wing populism spreads across Europe, they feel their warnings are now more pressing than ever. "Omas Gegen Rechts" (or "Grannies Against the Right") started as a small Facebook group and has rapidly grown into a protest movement with branches in Austria, Germany, and Italy. The grannies say they want to prevent history from repeating itself. But others have accused them of scaremongering and of using the past to undermine right-wing politicians. Is their alarm justified? And can they succeed in containing the populist tide? Presenter: Marco Silva (Photo: members of "Grannies Against the Right". Credit: Christopher Glanzl)
11/23/201922 minutes, 6 seconds
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How 'state-sponsored trolling' works

When Azerbaijani journalist Arzu Geybulla started to receive abusive messages online, she quickly became suspicious. She had received offensive messages before. But this time was different. She was being flooded with them. So she decided to dig further. Her investigation brought her into the murky world of state-sponsored trolling. Around the world, more governments are getting involved in harassment campaigns against journalists, activists and citizens. According to the Oxford Internet Institute, 47 countries conducted state-sponsored trolling campaigns in 2019. That’s up from 27 the year before. Governments are using trolls and campaigns of abuse to silence critics, to sow discord and hold onto power. We meet the targets of government trolling campaigns and the researchers trying to combat them. What can we do about state-sponsored trolling? Presenter: Mike Wendling Reporter: Ant Adeane (Photo: Person in the shadows on a computer. Credit: Getty Images)
11/16/201918 minutes, 41 seconds
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The ‘lifeguard’ who saves women on Instagram

Ingebjørg spends hours every day on Instagram, but she’s not posting selfies. She’s trying to save lives. This softly-spoken 22-year-old has made it her mission to keep an eye on hundreds of desperate young women and girls who post their self-harm pictures and suicidal thoughts on secret accounts that only trusted followers can see. Many of those involved have eating disorders, depression or other mental health problems. They don’t trust healthcare workers or doctors. But they do trust Ingebjørg. She can see what they post and she routinely calls the police when she thinks somebody is in danger. It’s earned her the nickname “The Lifeguard”. Ingebjørg doesn’t work for Instagram. Saving lives isn’t her job, she has no formal training and nobody pays her for what she does. So should the Facebook-owned social network take more responsibility for helping its users? And what would happen if Ingebjørg wasn’t there? If you are affected by the issues discussed you can find information about support organisations on the Befrienders Worldwide website Presenter: Catrin Nye Producer: Ed Main Editor: Mike Wendling (Photo Caption: Ingebjørg in her home city of Bergen, Norway / Photo credit: BBC)
11/8/201918 minutes, 18 seconds
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The Instagram suicide network

Andrine was 17 years old when she killed herself in March 2017. For two years her mother left Andrine’s phone untouched in a cardboard box by her front door. But when a journalist from the Norwegian broadcaster NRK approached her Andrine’s mother plucked up the courage to take a look. The information from Andrine’s phone uncovered a secretive international network of young women and girls who share pictures of self-harm, thoughts about killing themselves and even their suicidal attempts. Many of those in the network have eating disorders, depression or other mental health problems. They don’t trust healthcare workers or doctors, and they communicate using private Instagram accounts. The investigation by NRK has identified at least 15 young women and girls in the network who have taken their own lives in the last three years. So what responsibility does social media – and Instagram in particular - bear for the deaths? If you are affected by the issues in this programme you can find information about support organisations on the Befrienders Worldwide website. Presenter: Catrin Nye Producer: Ed Main (Photo: A close-up of Andrine pinned on a noticeboard. Credit: BBC)
11/1/201923 minutes, 50 seconds
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The rise of the 'Brazilian butt lift'

The Brazilian Butt Lift or as it’s more commonly known, the BBL, is one of the most dangerous cosmetic procedures in the world but that hasn’t stopped it becoming one of the most requested. Posts on this type of cosmetic surgery are all over social media which show before and after photos to portray this popular body type. It’s influenced one woman to think about having a BBL. But before she makes a decision, she speaks to social media influencers, her close friends and medical professionals who help guide her through her choice. Are the deadly risks involved in this type of cosmetic surgery worth taking for a big bottom? Originally broadcast 10/5/19 Presenter: Anisa Subedar Reporter: Lola Mosanya Picture: Credit: BBC
10/25/201923 minutes, 27 seconds
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Why Greek activists are telling tourists to leave

"Go home!" That's what some tourists are being told when they visit the Athens district of Exarchia. It’s been described as an "anarchist enclave", a place where riot police regularly clash with local activists. But it’s also a rapidly gentrifying area where Instagramable coffee shops are adorned with colourful, anti-establishment graffiti. Its central location and cheap property prices mean that Exarchia has in recent years attracted increasing numbers of tourists. This in turn has stoked resentment among some activists, who say the pressures of tourism have driven rents up and pushed long-established residents out of their homes. Radical left-wing groups have called for direct action to stop this trend. They hang banners telling tourists they are "targets", vandalise flats rented out via Airbnb, and post videos of their comrades shouting at visitors to leave. But others in the neighbourhood argue tourism is giving Greece the means to recover from a devastating economic crisis and years of financial austerity. BBC Trending travels to the beating heart of Exarchia to meet residents, activists and tourists. What happens when Instagram hipsters clash with local activists? Presenter: Mike Wendling Reporter: Jessica Bateman Producer: Marco Silva (Photo Caption: Activists stencil a slogan reading "Flats for immigrants not for Airbnb" on a wall in central Athens / Photo Credit: Getty Images)
10/18/201924 minutes, 39 seconds
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Cuba’s digital revolution

A revolution is underway in Cuba. The country’s communist leaders, who normally retain tight control of the media, have encouraged Cubans to become more connected online. Internet access used to be the preserve of a privileged (and relatively rich) few. But prices have come down, public wifi spots are popular, and less than a year ago 3G data access became available on Cuban phones. Along with a huge uptake in the internet has come a flood of Cubans signing up to social media accounts. Even President Miguel Diaz-Canel is on Twitter. And unlike staid and traditional state-run media, Cuban social media is relatively open, freewheeling, full of jokes, criticism of the government and, of course, memes. Prices are still high and the government keeps a close eye on dissidents or “counter-revolutionaries”. But online, Cubans are exploring new ways to communicate that would have been unheard of just a few years ago. The BBC’s Cuba correspondent Will Grant and BBC Trending reporter Reha Kansara have been meeting the Cubans at the forefront of their country’s digital revolution. They meet political podcasters, a lesbian activist, a pro-government blogger, a gamer-turned-protester, a dissident journalist and one of Cuba’s biggest YouTube stars. How are Cubans making their voices heard in a way they never have before – and how might social media transform the country? Presenters: Will Grant and Reha Kansara Photo: A young Cuban standing by the waterfront in Havana accesses the internet on his phone.
10/11/201950 minutes, 40 seconds
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Can an algorithm be racist?

Algorithms have shaped the internet as we know it. Complex automated instructions drive search engines and social media platforms, and offer us each a tailored, individualised online experience. Techno-optimists have long looked at artificial intelligence in awe, hoping that machines and algorithms would help humans find solutions for complex problems and remove human bias. But some are more sceptical and argue algorithms not only have human prejudices built into them – but that they are making those biases worse. Robert Elliott Smith is an expert in artificial intelligence and author of the new book Rage Inside the Machine: The Prejudice of Algorithms, and How to Stop the Internet Making Bigots of Us All. He argues that algorithms are prejudiced by their very nature and that, in their search for simple solutions to human questions, they have created divisions among us. He also argues algorithms have amplified our biases and turned many of us into bigots. But are the machines really to blame? Or are they just mirroring who we really are? Presenter: Anisa Subedar Producer: Marco Silva (Photo Caption: Illustration of a woman shouting obscenities / Photo Credit: Getty Images)
10/4/201923 minutes, 9 seconds
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How worried should we be about deepfakes?

Recently an app called Zao zoomed up the charts in China. It uses artificial intelligence to allow people to upload themselves into famous movies. One viral clip showed a young Chinese man being transformed into Leonardo DiCaprio in the film Titanic. Although for most people it was harmless fun, the rise of Zao prompted more worrying headlines about “deepfake” technology. The concerns are not that it could be used to make fake movie clips, but instead to make fake news – for instance, viral videos of politicians appearing to utter things they never actually said. While the technology behind deepfakes has been in development for a while, it’s only in the last few years that it has become good enough to trick people on a wide scale, using the power of social media. Some experts say that in that in a year it may be tough to tell which videos on our timelines are real and which ones are fake. We go deep into the world of deepfakes, meet some of the people who are trying to develop methods to detect them and find out just how easy it is to make a deepfake from scratch. Presenter: Mike Wendling Reporter: Sean Allsop (Photo caption: A digitised face / Photo credit: Getty Images)
9/27/201923 minutes, 49 seconds
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The problem with the viral celery juice ‘cure’

The Medical Medium has millions of followers on social media. He claims he can help cure your chronic illness with home remedies like celery juice. But he doesn’t have any medical qualifications. Instead, he claims he gets his medical information from communicating with spirits. Thousands of people online say he’s helped them. But could his claims be stopping patients seeking the medical help they need. And is the rise of unqualified influencers creating distrust in real doctors? We explore the booming celery juice trend and meet the doctor who is trying to start a counter-movement to get qualified medical professionals to use social media more effectively. Presenter: Jonathan Griffin Reporter: Ione Wells (Photo Caption: Screenshot of the Medical Medium Instagram account / Photo Credit: Instagram)
9/20/201923 minutes, 19 seconds
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Algeria’s disinformation battle

Algeria is a nation in flux - and it has become an information battleground. In February this year, thousands came out onto the streets to protest against President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's decision to run for a fifth term in office. He eventually resigned, but the demonstrators have continued to press for change. Protesters have been using social media to keep up the momentum, but a campaign of disinformation threatens to stop them in their tracks. A flurry of fake news stories has been spreading online, while pro-government trolls have tried to shape the online conversation. Opposition figures have accused the regime of deploying such tactics - but what do we really know about this faceless online army? We delve into a world of online lies and rumours and meet the volunteers helping Algerians distinguish fact from fiction. Presenter: Marco Silva (Photo: An Algerian protester shouts slogans during a demonstration in Algiers on 1 May. Credit: Getty Images)
9/13/201923 minutes, 49 seconds
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The hunt for red mercury

Some believe red mercury is a mystical elixir with magical healing powers that has survived from the time of the pharaohs in ancient Egypt. Others fear that it is a dangerous nuclear material, which in the wrong hands could bring about the apocalypse. However, red mercury doesn’t actually exist. So why is it being offered for sale on social media? We go in search of the many amazing lives of this mysterious mythical material. Presenter: Mike Wendling Reporter: Sarah Myles Producer: Ed Main (Photo Caption: Illustration of a red splodge / Photo Credit: Getty Images)
9/6/201923 minutes, 14 seconds
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Living with China’s social media censorship

How do Chinese social media users navigate government censorship? Months of unrest in Hong Kong have caused concern in mainland China, where news about the pro-democracy protests has been carefully filtered out of social media. It’s common for social media companies in China to remove content that is perceived to be threatening to social stability or the ruling Communist Party. Beijing-based journalist and writer Karoline Kan delves into a world of forbidden words and state-sanctioned influencers. Presenter: Marco Silva (Photo Caption: Illustration of a man pulling the Chinese flag over another person’s mouth / Photo Credit: BBC)
8/30/201924 minutes, 40 seconds
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We were promised a baby on Instagram

When it became clear Samantha couldn’t give birth to her own children, she and her husband decided to look on social media for pregnant women who wanted to give their babies up for adoption. They got a message from a young woman, who said she was heavily pregnant and wanted them to adopt her child. The couple couldn’t believe their luck. But what followed was more than a month of emotional turmoil. They had fallen prey to a scammer who had promised babies to lots of couples she found on Instagram. We investigate the web of lies and deceit spun by the scammer and explore the emotional toll it took on dozens of hopeful parents. Presenter: Reha Kansara Reporter: Naomi Pallas (Photo Caption: A composite of a family portrait without a child / Photo Credit: BBC)
8/23/201922 minutes, 44 seconds
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Facebook’s market for illicit antiquities

War-torn countries are having their cultural heritage destroyed with antiquities being looted and sold to generate money. In some cases, the plunder may constitute a war crime. Instability in countries like Syria means some people are taking desperate measures to survive, but some looters have connections to criminal gangs, the Syrian government and terrorist organisations. How has this trade moved online and what is being done to prevent the destruction of cultural heritage? We examine the scale of the looting, how traffickers use the features of platforms like Facebook to facilitate their illegal businesses, and how the western art world could help tackle the issue. Presenter: Mike Wendling Reporter: Sarah Myles (Photo Caption: An April 2019 picture of the adorned arc at the 5th century basilica in Syria's Qalb Lozeh village in the north-western province of Idlib / Photo Credit: Omar Haj Kadour/AFP/Getty Images)
8/16/201923 minutes, 3 seconds
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The people who want humans to stop having babies

Have you ever wondered what would happen to humanity if we all stopped having babies? The extinction of the human race may be a scary thought to most of us, but not for the “anti-natalists”. They’re a thriving online community based on Facebook and Reddit that firmly believes human life only brings suffering and should therefore come to an end. While some entertain the idea on a purely philosophical level, others say reducing the number of people on Earth is an imperative to combat climate change. So what exactly motivates the anti-natalists? And how seriously should we take some of their rather controversial views and arguments? We have been following their conversations online and spoken to a number of anti-natalists who want a worldwide birth stop now. Presenter: Mike Wendling Reporter: Jonathan Griffin (Photo: Red ban sign over baby's picture. Credit: Getty Images)
8/9/201923 minutes, 4 seconds
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Can YouTube be trusted?

YouTube has been criticised for failing to take responsibility for videos posted on the platform. So can it be trusted to control potentially harmful content? The video-sharing site is just 14, but there's no doubt it has become a giant of global communication. According to the company's own figures, it has more than a billion users around the globe, watching more than a billion hours of videos every day. At the same time as it has grown phenomenally popular, however, YouTube has also been accused of spreading conspiracy theories and radicalising people into violent extremism. It has also been blamed for allowing hate speech, while failing to protect users from harmful videos. And so it's only fair to ask: can YouTube really be trusted? In a rare interview with the BBC, YouTube UK managing director Ben McOwen Wilson gives us a glimpse into the company’s thinking about the many challenges and controversies it has faced in recent months. Presenter: Marco Silva Reporter: Chris Fox (Photo Caption: a laptop showing YouTube's logo on its screen is held in front of graffiti / Photo Credit: Getty Images)
8/2/201925 minutes, 32 seconds
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How influential is a pro-Trump conspiracy theory?

What does the QAnon conspiracy theory tell us about American politics today? It’s a sprawling set of allegations which has a number of branches and offshoots –but if one thing unites its believers, it’s that they all support President Trump. We meet Dylan Wheeler, an influencer with more than 370,000 followers on Twitter, as he speaks at a gathering of Trump supporters. Although the people in the crowd aren’t all conspiracy theorists, some of them aren’t exactly opposed to such ideas. We hear from experts who tell us that conspiracy theories are a consistent and significant feature of American politics, and they come from the left as much as the right. What, if anything, is different about QAnon? Presenter: Mike Wendling (Photo Caption:: A QAnon supporter holds up a sign outside a rally for President Donald Trump / Photo Credit: Getty Images)
7/19/201923 minutes, 34 seconds
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Is YouTube to blame for the rise of flat Earth?

Many people who believe the Earth is not round first heard the idea on YouTube. While it’s hard to accurately say how many flat Earthers there are worldwide, it is undeniable that their community has grown in recent years. Flat Earth meet-ups and conventions have popped up in a number of countries, while online searches for the topic have reached unprecedented levels. YouTube hosts thousands of flat Earth videos, some with millions of views. And when you ask flat Earth conspiracy theorists how they got into the movement, they almost always say their introduction came via the world’s most popular video-sharing site. It was on YouTube that many were persuaded to reject centuries of solid science and where they found like-minded people to share their views with. YouTube says it's taking action to address the proliferation of misinformation and conspiracy theories on their platform. The Google-owned company says it’s trying to limit the spread of flat Earth videos (albeit only in the United States so far) and is taking steps to insert factual information among the conspiracy content. But is it all just too little, too late? Presenter: Mike Wendling Reporter: Marco Silva (Photo: 3D illustration of a flat earth model/ Photo credit: Getty Images)
7/12/201924 minutes, 18 seconds
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The Emirati women fleeing their faith and family

Growing up, Dina – not her real name – would browse social media and imagine a life far from the one she was living. She felt shackled by the rules imposed on her by her parents, religion and the culture of the United Arab Emirates. So one day she escaped, using social media to navigate through networks of people and ex-Muslim communities, to get to the West. Several recent high-profile cases of Emirati women leaving the country have been in the news recently. But Dina’s story is more ordinary and indications are it is becoming more common. We explore why Dina fled the UAE, how she did it and what life is like for her now. Presenter: Reha Kansara Reporter: Sophia Smith-Galer (Photo Caption: Dina, who fled her family in the United Arab Emirates / Photo Credit: BBC)
7/5/201922 minutes, 9 seconds
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How scammers took advantage of #BlueForSudan

After a Sudanese protester was killed, there was a wave of sympathy on social media – but scammers took advantage. In early June, 26-year-old activist Mohamed Mattar was shot and killed in Khartoum. He was one of 100 protesters who died in a government crackdown on a sit-in. Blue was his favourite colour, and at the time of his death, the avatar on his social media pages displayed a deep shade similar to the colour of the ocean. Some of Mohamed’s friends and family changed their avatars to the same colour that he used. Within days, a worldwide movement had started: #BlueForSudan. But along with the authentic outpouring of support came scammers who used the trend to harvest likes, shares and followers. So how did “sympathy scammers” exploit the crisis for their own benefit? We speak to the teenage boy who took them on. Presenters: Jonathan Griffin and Reha Kansara (Photo caption: Some of the fake accounts / Photo credit: Instagram)
6/28/201923 minutes, 41 seconds
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The man who kick-started the Egyptian revolution

It was a moment that defined online activism. When tens of thousands of people came out to Cairo’s Tahrir Square to demand the end of the rule of Hosni Mubarak in January 2011, they weren’t responding to a political party or a leafleting campaign – but instead to a Facebook page. It was called “We are all Khaled Said” - in honour of a 28-year-old man who was tortured to death by Egyptian police. It was the moment when the world woke up to the true political power of social media. Wael Ghonim was one of the founders of that Facebook page - but the revolution did not go according to plan. The Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi was elected president, and was then overthrown by the army. He recently died while on trial. A wave of terror attacks, a shaky security situation, a faltering economy, and increasing political repression have rocked Egypt. Earlier this year, Trending visited Wael Ghonim in one of his favourite cafes in San Francisco to talk about technology, politics, and revolution. Have the events in Egypt changed his perspective on technology and politics? Presenter: Mike Wendling (Photo Caption: Wael Ghonim / Photo Credit: BBC)
6/21/201923 minutes, 57 seconds
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The 23-year-old fixing the world of online debate

Online debate is broken – full of angry shouting and mindless agreement. And that’s even before you get to the trolls, lies, misinformation, and fake news. This week we visit Inverness, in the Highlands of Scotland, to meet a man with a plan to fix this problem. Six years ago, when he was a curious, guitar-playing student, Kal Turnbull started a subreddit – a section of the website Reddit - called Change My View. He encouraged people to post their opinions and invite other users to politely argue against them. It took off, and now has more than 700,000 subscribers. And now Kal wants to take the idea beyond Reddit, with a new website – – which just launched. We stroll around a very damp Inverness to find out more about his new business, ask Kal about some of the criticisms that have been levelled at it, and look at how online debate became so unhealthy. Presenters: Jonathan Griffin and Mike Wendling (Photo Caption: Kal Turnbull on the banks of the River Ness / Photo credit: BBC)
6/14/201923 minutes, 47 seconds
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The volunteers fighting hate on Facebook

Nina spends three hours a day on Facebook – not sharing selfies or catching up on news, but trying to make the network a nicer place. She’s a German member of a large and growing international movement called #IAmHere. Started in Sweden in 2016, tens of thousands of volunteers in more than a dozen countries organise in closed Facebook groups. They target popular posts, often from mainstream news organisations, which get overrun by extremism, violent threats and hate speech. Their goal is to inject balance into the conversation with facts and more moderate views. There’s some evidence to indicate that their efforts are starting to have an impact. We’ve been in around Europe visiting #IAmHere’s founder, Swedish journalist Mina Dennert, and several members from the German group – fittingly called #IchBinHier. We find out how they operate – and what motivates people like Nina to spend so much time trying to chip away at such an enormous issue. Presenter: Reha Kansara Reporter: Jessica Bateman Photo: German #IAmHere volunteer Nina Photo credit: BBC
6/7/201922 minutes, 17 seconds
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When threatening private messages go public

They were meant to be private, and the people posting them considered them “jokes”. But when female students at the University of Warwick found out about hundreds of violent and obscene messages – some of them directly naming themselves and their friends - they were horrified and scared. We heard from the women who were named in the group chat, and who alleged that a later university investigation fell short of their expectations. The messages came from closed social media groups – and it was a social media campaign which led to a public outcry which changed the direction of the case. Presenter: Jonathan Griffin Reporter: Larissa Kennelly Photo caption: Hands holding a mobile phone / Photo credit: BBC
5/31/201923 minutes, 45 seconds
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How YouTube decides what you should watch

Why are there so many conspiracy videos on YouTube? The company has clamped down on extremist and dangerous content, but conspiracies, outright fakes, and hoaxes are still very easy to find. Sometimes they’re only watched by a few people, but often these videos go viral. The reason why they so often pop up on your screen, says former Google employee Guillaume Chaslot, is YouTube’s algorithm. Chaslot was one of the engineers who helped shape the YouTube recommendation engine, the mechanism that determines which videos the site suggests you watch next. He was sacked in 2013, and since then he has become a critic of the company. He now says that YouTube’s obsession with keeping people watching has turned the platform into an incubator for false, incendiary, and sensationalist content – and this, in turn, is having a very real impact on the world we live in. Presenter: Marco Silva Photo caption: YouTube logo on a smartphone Photo credit: Getty Images
5/24/201922 minutes, 34 seconds
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Is Russia trying to sway the European elections?

Officials in Brussels are worried. With the elections for the European Parliament rapidly approaching, they say Russia is using disinformation and fake news to sow discord and to undermine people's trust in the European Union. Moscow flatly denies such accusations. But EU officials say Russian disinformation could help anti-EU parties and movements. And, if you were to believe the polls, populist and Eurosceptic parties are indeed likely to increase their number of seats. While the EU talks of a threat that can’t be ignored, others argue that European governments are missing the point: it's not foreign threats they should be tackling, but rather issues such as economic uncertainty, worries over immigration and discontent with traditional politics. So, how seriously should we be taking the EU's warnings? Presenter: Mike Wendling Reporter: Marco Silva (Photo caption: Mural depicting a man chipping a star off of the European Union flag, by British graffiti artist Banksy / Photo credit: Getty Images)
5/17/201924 minutes, 2 seconds
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What’s boosting the ‘Brazilian Butt Lift’?

It’s a dangerous cosmetic surgical procedure that’s all over social media. About one in every 3,000 women who undergo a Brazilian Butt Lift - or BBL - will die, but the stark statistics haven’t stopped its popularity. In the United States, for instance, the number of BBLs has doubled in just a few years. Fuelling the trend are social media photos and influencers who show off their hourglass shapes – including big breasts, tiny waists, and a big bottom. It’s a particularly prized body type in some cultures and, in modern times, it’s been popularised by superstars like Kim Kardashian. We follow Shami, a 23-year-old who’s considering having a BBL. Before she makes a decision, she speaks to social media influencers, her close friends, and medical professionals who help guide her through her choice. Will she – or won’t she? Presenter: Anisa Subedar Reporter: Lola Mosanya (Photo caption: artist’s impression of a Brazilian Butt Lift/ Photo credit: BBC)
5/10/201923 minutes, 20 seconds
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How to survive the digital age

Where did it all go wrong? The liberating promise of the internet and social media has recently been swamped by worries about privacy, misinformation and online radicalisation. Now that doubts about our digital technologies are all over the news, what should we do about it? Author and podcaster Douglas Rushkoff wants a new fight against “anti-human” technologies. He says that many recent technological developments – including the rise of social media – have alienated and isolated us. Rushkoff is not a Luddite – in fact he’s an enthusiastic early adopter and long-time chronicler of the digital world. But in his new book Team Human, and his podcast of the same name, he argues for a critical look at how technology is affecting our brains and our lives. What does he think is the way forward – and are people really listening? Presenter: Mike Wendling Producers: Jonathan Griffin and Ed Main (Photo caption: Douglas Rushkoff/ Photo credit: Iain Marcks)
5/3/201922 minutes, 41 seconds
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The fight for South Africa’s future

There’s a new wave of political activism in South Africa. Young activists with social media savvy have shaken up the system and could be a decisive factor in next month’s general election. We’ve been to Johannesburg to meet Sankara. His day job is selling eggs, and he’s a staunch supporter of the African National Congress (ANC) – the political movement that has been in power ever since Nelson Mandela was elected president 25 years ago. But this time around the ANC’s majority is not looking so certain. One relatively new party, the Economic Freedom Fighters, are looking to boost their share of the vote with more radical policies over land reform and other issues. Their hard-left rhetoric has found an audience among many young people including students like Thapi. The new wave of youth activism has been given a boost by campus movements against rising tuition fees and against alleged bias in education. And so it’s fitting that we brought Sankara and Thapi to meet on the grounds of Wits University to debate the future path of South Africa. Presenters: Jonathan Griffin and Anisa Subedar Producer: Marco Silva Photo Caption: ANC member Sankara (left) and EFF member Thapi (right)/ Photo Credit: BBC
4/26/201923 minutes
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Fake news and false confessions in Sudan protests

Trending investigates claims that innocent men were framed to try to discredit demonstrations against Sudan’s former leader Omar al-Bashir. After mass street protests, the military stepped in to end President Bashir’s 30-year rule earlier this month. But the BBC has uncovered evidence that the regime organised a fake news campaign to try to portray peaceful protesters as violent rebels. Students were allegedly tortured to make false confessions that were filmed and distributed online. However, social media played a critical role in exposing the attempted deception. Presenter: Anisa Subedar Reporter: Owen Pinnell Photo Caption: Demonstrators gather during a rally outside the army complex in the capital Khartoum. Photo Credit: Getty Images.
4/19/201922 minutes, 28 seconds
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Jered Threatin: The fake rock star

How did an ambitious musician fool thousands of people using social media? Jered Threatin successfully managed to fake an entire existence as a rock star. He persuaded people he was an award-winning musician who had played to sold-out venues. And as a result of his seemingly popular social media accounts and faked web pages, he orchestrated a European tour, got his eponymous band booked in venues across six countries. The BBC’s Jessica Lussenhop got an exclusive interview with Jered Threatin, and she helps tell the story of how he was able to dupe people, how he was uncovered and why his desire for global success has now made him famous – for all the wrong reasons. Presenter: Anisa Subedar Reporter: Jessica Lussenhop (Photo Caption: Jered Threatin / Photo Credit: BBC)
4/12/201923 minutes, 23 seconds
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TikTok’s problem with online predators

The video-sharing app TikTok has taken the teenage world by storm. But where there are kids, there are also predators. We found dozens of adults using TikTok to post sexual comments on videos uploaded by teenagers and children. TikTok, which has 500 million users worldwide, says it is working hard to protect its users from inappropriate approaches. But a BBC Trending investigation exposed some worrying shortcomings in the way it deals with the problem. Presenter: Mike Wendling Reporter: Marco Silva (Photo: TikTok logo. Credit: TikTok)
4/5/201923 minutes, 35 seconds
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‘I invested in Facebook … now I am ashamed’

Roger McNamee was a Facebook fan and an advisor to Mark Zuckerberg. Now he says he’s sad about the way the company is being run and the impact that it’s having on the world. Zuckerberg first sought out his advice, McNamee says, in 2006, shortly after Yahoo was making a $1bn bid to buy the social media company. McNamee, a veteran Silicon Valley investor, says he saw Facebook’s potential and urged the young entrepreneur to stay independent. But a decade later, he saw hyper-partisan posts poisoning politics online, and during the late stages of the US presidential election in 2016 he turned from a Facebook booster to a Facebook critic. Roger McNamee recently stopped into a studio to talk to us about his new book, Zucked, and he told us that Facebook, Google and other tech companies have serious flaws which require drastic and swift action. Presenter: Mike Wendling Producer: Edward Main (Photo: Roger McNamee. Credit: Rick Smolan)
3/29/201922 minutes, 30 seconds
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Decoding far-right online hate after Christchurch

Where does the extremist culture that inspired the Christchurch killer come from? A graphic live-streamed video and a rambling document included clues as to how the Christchurch shooter was radicalised. He used the message board 8chan to announce his attacks, which killed 50 people in the New Zealand city. And throughout his online postings are clues to how connected he was with the online culture of 8chan and a related website, 4chan. We break down the online networks used by far-right extremists to disseminate their messages under layers of irony and double meaning. And ask questions about the big social media companies, who’ve been criticised for not taking quicker action – both against the live-streamed video of the attacks and more generally against white nationalist propaganda. Is there anything that can be done online to stop similar attacks in the future? Presenters: Anisa Subedar and Mike Wendling Guests: Robert Evans, investigative journalist, Bellingcat Hussein Kesvani, UK editor, MEL magazine Annie Kelly, digital culture researcher, University of East Anglia Issie Lapowsky, senior writer, Wired magazine Ali Soufan, former FBI agent and chief executive officer of The Soufan Group Abdirahim Saeed, BBC Monitoring’s Jihadist Media Team (Photo Caption: A police officer stands guard inside an Islamic centre in New Zealand during a silence for the victims of the Christchurch attacks / Photo Credit: Getty Images)
3/22/201923 minutes, 23 seconds
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The people behind US political violence (Part 2 of 2)

Since the election of Donald Trump, there’s been a disturbing wave of street violence across America. The epicentre is Portland, Oregon, a place better known for its chilled out hipster lifestyle – but which has been the scene of dozens of far-right marches and rallies. Those events often result in arrests and violence. BBC Trending went there to meet two activists who have been on opposite sides of the fighting. Anti-fascist activist Luis Enrique Marquez and Rob Cantrall, member of the far-right Proud Boys group, have agreed to meet for a discussion. But will they have any common ground to bridge the political divide? Presenter: Mike Wendling Producers: Linda Sills & Natalia Zuo Editor: Jeremy Skeet (Photo Caption: A far-right protester in Portland / Photo Credit: Getty Images)
3/15/201922 minutes, 35 seconds
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The people behind US political violence (Part 1 of 2)

There is a disturbing new wave of political street violence in America. Groups on the far right and the far left have clashed in New York, Berkeley, California, and Charlottesville, Virginia. But one liberal enclave is the main battleground: Portland, Oregon - a progressive city in the Pacific north-west. BBC Trending has visited Portland to meet two activists who have traded insults and threats online, as well as confronting each other in the streets. What drives anti-fascist Luis Enrique Marquez? And why has marijuana farmer Rob Cantrall joined the Proud Boys, which one anti-extremism organisation has dubbed a hate group? Presenter: Mike Wendling Producers: Linda Sills and Natalia Zuo (Photo: Anti-fascist activists line up in front of police in Portland. Credit: Getty Images)
3/8/201923 minutes, 4 seconds
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‘I hunt trolls’

After she got a death threat, Ginger Gorman dove headfirst into the world of trolls. It all started when she wrote a light feature about a gay couple who had adopted a child. Years later, the couple were arrested on child sexual abuse charges, and although she had no knowledge of their crimes, internet trolls swarmed to attack her – even sending her and her family death threats. Where some would run away and hide, Ginger became fascinated with the world of online trolling and spent five years researching a dark and dangerous online world for a new book. Not only did she gain insight into the psyche of a troll but one notorious troll actually became her friend. But what are the implications and consequences of trolls on the people they target? And should social media companies do more about the people who post online threats on their platforms? Presenter: Anisa Subedar (Photo Caption: Ginger Gorman / Photo Credit: Ginger Gorman)
3/1/201923 minutes, 41 seconds
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The hackers who cracked printers for PewDiePie

Recently, printers around the world started spewing out pages without any direction from their owners. Then a mysterious video showed up on smart TVs. Both hacks were designed to promote PewDiePie, the most popular vlogger on YouTube, in his battle to maintain subscriber supremacy against popular Indian channel T-Series. The hackers say they did it to expose the flaws and dangers in some connected devices, but they also got the attention of the YouTube star – as well as the authorities, and trolls who sent them threats. The BBC’s cybersecurity correspondent Joe Tidy tracked down the hackers and joins us in the studio to tell us what he found out. After the pranks make worldwide news, the pair decided to disappear from the internet for fear of reprisals. Do they now regret hacking? Presenter: Anisa Subedar Reporter: Joe Tidy (Photo Caption: YouTuber PewDiePie / Photo Credit: Getty Images)
2/22/201922 minutes, 53 seconds
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The man reporting on Africa’s most secretive state

There is no independent media in Eritrea, a country that ranks near the very bottom of press freedom indexes. But one man is trying to change his country’s repressive system. “J” is the editor of Eritrean Press, a Facebook page which is a mix of political reporting, satire, sport, and light features. It’s an almost unique development aimed at Eritrean readers both inside the country – where only around 1% of the population is able to access the internet – and the wider diaspora around the world. In his first-ever interview, the editor of Eritrean Press talks about what it’s like to run a news outlet from outside the country, and how a peace agreement caused his page’s stance to shift - from broad support of government foreign policy to a sharply critical line on President Isaias Afwerki’s regime. Reporters: Reha Kansara and Mike Wendling Producers: Reha Kansara and Ed Main (Photo Caption: The Eritrean Press logo with a silhouette of man talking into a microphone / Photo Credit: BBC/Eritrean Press)
2/15/201923 minutes, 29 seconds
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How the far right hijacked a murder

After 14-year-old Keira Gross was murdered in Berlin, the far right pounced. They spread rumours and misinformation online, blaming the crime on a Muslim immigrant from Chechnya who they dubbed “The Beast of the Caucasus”. One key activist, Lutz Bachmann of the anti-Islam group Pegida, even identified a boy who he said was the murderer, and posted his details with a link to his Facebook profile. However, there was a problem: the rumours were wrong. It emerged that Keira was not murdered by a Muslim immigrant, but rather by a churchgoing German classmate who was obsessed with Batman’s nemesis, the Joker. We hear from Keira’s mother about the impact the rumours have had on her life, and find out how extremists twist reports of crime to serve their political goals. Presenter: Mike Wendling Reporter: Ant Adeane (Photo: Keira Gross. Credit: Karin Gross)
2/8/201923 minutes, 53 seconds
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Meet the Lawyer Fighting 'Revenge Porn'

Carrie Goldberg’s life changed when an ex-boyfriend threatened to post naked pictures and videos of her online. She was already practicing as a lawyer, but quit her job to start her own firm and give her clients - as she puts it - “the lawyer I needed when I was going through hell.” When she began in 2014, there were few laws against what is now known as “revenge porn” – the non-consensual sharing of explicit photos online. Now many countries and US states have passed anti-revenge porn laws. Movements like #MeToo have also focused attention on sexual consent and harassment. Carrie Goldberg tells BBC Trending how she has won legal victories for her clients. And she explains why social media and dating apps are both part of the solution and part of the problem. Presenter: Mike Wendling Producer: Anisa Subedar (Photo: Carrie Goldberg in her New York office / Credit: BBC Copyright)
2/1/201922 minutes, 49 seconds
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Lessons from an Instagram Star’s Failed Tour

Caroline Calloway built a huge audience on Instagram by posting fairy tale pictures of life as a university student in England, mixing romance and adventure with a dash of personal revelation and grit. But she recently found herself on the receiving end of a wave of abuse after she cancelled a tour of “creativity workshops”. It’s prompted a discussion about influencers – social media stars who have a lot of cultural clout and can often make a lot of money. But what happens when they let down their fans? Reporter: Anisa Subedar Presenter: Mike Wendling (Photo: Caroline Calloway. Credit: Instagram/Caroline Calloway)
1/28/201923 minutes, 40 seconds
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How an Online Video Shut Down a Multimillion Dollar Experiment

In June 2017 more than 70 children arrived at a university campus in Indiana, US. They were there to take part in a nutrition study that examined the effects of diet and sodium reduction on blood pressure and cholesterol in adolescents. But the experiment swiftly came to a halt when a video was posted online of what was going on at the Camp. As a result, the multi-million dollar nutrition study was terminated. We travel to the US to speak to the children who participated in the study, their parents, and a camp manager. Reporter: Camila Ruz Producer: Ant Adeane (Photo: Purdue University Student Dormitory Building. Credit: Getty Images)
1/18/201923 minutes, 16 seconds
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Mystery Music ‘Forced’ onto Streamers

At the start of October some users of a music-streaming platform found that their accounts were playing songs against their wishes. Artists like the Bergenulo Five and DJ Bruej were streamed thousands of times, with Spotify users claiming the music was forced onto them. Apart from the listings on the streaming platforms, the musicians had next to no digital footprint on the rest of the internet - no fan pages, no concert listings and no photos of the actual band members. So who was behind the streaming and why? Reporter: Jonathan Griffin Producer: Ant Adeane (Photo: A woman with an unhappy expression wearing headphones whilst placing her hands over her ears. Credit: Getty Images)
1/11/201923 minutes, 43 seconds
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What Do We Really Know About Russian Disinformation?

We meet investigators looking into social media manipulation and the people behind the Hamilton 68 project, which monitors suspected Russian accounts. Two reports recently prepared for US Senate investigators detailed extensive Russian efforts to influence major social networks. Trending travels to Texas to meet the people behind one of the reports at New Knowledge, a company that was involved in the development of the “Hamilton 68 dashboard” – a running tally of hashtags and other information on accounts linked to Russian propaganda. New Knowledge has been one of a number of companies at the forefront of the investigation into the Kremlin-linked Internet Research Agency and other disinformation campaigns. But the firm has also been criticised for lack of transparency around Hamilton 68 and for its involvement in a project during the US Senate race in Alabama. How do researchers answer those criticisms – and what are the methods they use to establish the origins of disinformation and social media propaganda? Presenter: Anisa Subedar Reporter: Mike Wendling Studio Managers: Neil Churchill and Graham Puddifoot Image Caption: New Knowledge co-founders Ryan Fox (left) and Jonathon Morgan (right) at the company’s offices in Austin, Texas Image Credit: BBC
1/4/201936 minutes, 28 seconds
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What Will 2019 Look Like on Social Media?

Russian pensions, football in Africa, jihadi propaganda – these are among the stories, trends, and conversations that are to shape social media in 2019. To find out more, Marco Silva talks to BBC colleagues who watch social media around the world. What stories and conversations will they be following online in the year ahead? Presenter: Marco Silva Sound engineer: Rod Farquhar Photo caption: a man holds a smartphone with the icons for various social networking apps seen on the screen. Photo credit: Getty Images
12/28/201822 minutes, 47 seconds
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The Best of Trending 2018

A look at BBC Trending’s highlights from the past year of covering social media. From America’s student anti-gun movement to the continuing noise made by #MeToo activists, social media played a huge role in some of the biggest political movements of the year. And of course the World Cup was drenched in tweets and hashtags - plus, we visit the gaming team with an average age of 67. All that and more, in our roundup of the year on social media as seen by BBC Trending. Presenter: Mike Wendling Producer: Reha Kansara Sound Engineers: Rod Farquar and Graham Puddifoot Photo Caption: A hashtag in a speech bubble Photo Credit: Getty Images
12/21/201823 minutes, 42 seconds
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The YouTube Stars Selling Cheating - Update

YouTube has deleted thousands of videos after a BBC Trending investigation. Seven months after we initially broke the story of essay-writing services advertised by top YouTubers, we found that the problem is bigger than ever, and academic cheating companies like EduBirdie have now moved on to other platforms like Snapchat, Facebook and Google. After alerting the tech giants of our findings, YouTube and Facebook took direct action and removed some of the content promoting essay writing companies. They say they’re taking steps to discourage dishonest behaviour. Using essay-writing services can lead to serious penalties for students – getting them expelled from university or school. And YouTubers who advertise such services risk having their videos taken down. We hear from YouTuber Nick Sturgeon who regrets having advertised a well-known academic cheating company on his channel - and a student who was blackmailed when he paid to have his work written for him. Presenter: Anisa Subedar Reporters: Ed Main and Branwen Jeffreys Studio Managers: James Beard and Rod Farquhar Photo Caption: A YouTuber advertising the EduBirdie essay-writing service Photo Credit: YouTube
12/14/201822 minutes, 58 seconds
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Do Instagram Hashtags Promote Eating Disorders?

Instagram’s search function does not always shield people at risk of eating disorders from seeing potentially harmful posts. A Trending investigation has found that although the site has filters in place to make the most obvious eating disorder-related hashtags unsearchable, misspellings allow people to navigate around the restrictions. And health warnings do not always pop up when users type in search terms that could lead them to some very extreme content. We hear from people who have suffered from eating disorders who describe the kinds of things they have seen on Instagram, and tell us of the challenges of using a social network as part of the recovery process. Instagram acknowledges the complexity of the issue and says it is dedicated to keeping harmful content away from vulnerable users. And as a result of our research, the Facebook-owned company has made some adjustments to try to further protect users. Presenter: Anisa Subedar Reporter: Joanne Whalley (Photo: A photo of a pizza being taken on a smartphone. Credit: Getty Images)
12/7/201823 minutes, 10 seconds
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The Shadowy Website Running Political Ads on Facebook

A shadowy website spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on political adverts on Facebook and other networks. But the people behind “Mainstream Network” have managed to remain entirely anonymous. No-one knows who runs the site and its social media accounts, where their money is coming from, or what their motivation is. We investigate their operation - just as Facebook faces tough questions about their role in preserving the integrity of elections around the world. Presenter: Mike Wendling Reporter: Marco Silva (Photo: A montage of Mainstream Network’s website and the site’s logo. Credit: Mainstream Network/BBC)
11/30/201823 minutes, 14 seconds
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The Sextortion Scammers

We investigate the criminals who threaten to expose you on social media, using password hacking. Imagine you open your email and there’s a message in there from someone that knows some of your personal information – like your laptop password. Not only that, but they’re threatening to reveal your darkest secrets on social media, unless you pay a ransom in anonymous cryptocurrency. That’s been happening to people all over the world - including our reporter Jo Whalley. Jo finds out how cyber criminals have got hold of people’s personal information and about the huge sums of money people have been paying to the scammers. Presenter: Mike Wendling Reporter: Jo Whalley Studio Manager: Neil Churchill Photo Caption: Photo illustration of hackers Photo Credit: Getty Images
11/23/201823 minutes, 21 seconds
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Killed Because of Fake News on WhatsApp

How a viral rumour on WhatsApp led to the lynching of two innocent men in Mexico. Ricardo Flores and his uncle Alberto were building a well. They set out to buy some supplies, but as it was a warm August day, they decided to take a break along the way. Within hours they were arrested and lynched – beaten and burnt to death by a ferocious mob. Rumours which spread on WhatsApp falsely accused the men of being child kidnappers. And before anyone could stop the residents of Acatlan, a small town in Mexico, a tragedy unfolded – the repercussions of which continue to be felt today. For the Beyond Fake News season on the BBC World Service, Marcos Martinez went to Acatlan to investigate. Presenter: Mike Wendling Reporter: Marcos Martinez Producer: Reha Kansara Studio Manager: Graham Puddifoot Photo Caption: A photo of Ricardo Flores, one of the men who was killed. Photo Credit: BBC
11/16/201822 minutes, 3 seconds
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The Truth Behind a So-Called 'Suicide Game’

Hundreds of suicides were linked to the Blue Whale Challenge – but what is the truth behind the claims? The challenge was described as an online game, where participants were given 50 tasks to perform over 50 days. A report in independent Russian news outlet Novaya Gazeta linked the game to 130 teenage suicides, and a 21-year-old man who was arrested in a case related to the challenge pleaded guilty and is currently in a Russian prison. But others are sceptical that the challenge can definitively be blamed for the tragedies. And in a twist, researchers say the game may not have even existed before the initial media reports. Presenter: Mike Wendling Reporter: Ant Adeane (Photo: A blue plastic toy whale. Credit: Getty Images)
11/9/201823 minutes, 8 seconds
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When The Faker Met The Fact Checker

The conclusion of our story about two men on opposing sides in the war against misinformation. Fake news writer Christopher Blair finds that the money is drying up because of Facebook algorithm changes, and he’s constantly being hunted by fact-checkers. Meanwhile in Belgium, Maarten Schenk gets a handle on viral misinformation and online lies. It seems like they would be natural enemies. So what happens when they get the chance to speak to each other? Presenter: Michael Wendling Reporter/Producer: Anisa Subedar Photo Caption: Fake News v Facts on a computer keyboard Photo Credit: Getty Images
11/2/201824 minutes, 3 seconds
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The Faker and the Fact Checker

Anisa Subedar meets two men positioned on opposing sides in the war against fake news. American Christopher Blair makes his living by making up online news stories, and Belgian Maarten Schenk is dedicated to debunking them. The two appear to be natural rivals, but is everything as it first seems? Presenter: Michael Wendling Reporter: Anisa Subedar (Photo: Fake News headline typed with a typewriter. Credit: Getty Images)
10/26/201823 minutes, 19 seconds
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A ‘Manspreading’ Video And Russia’s Culture Wars

A protest against “manspreading” went viral in Russia – but is it Russian propaganda? Activist Anna Dovgalyuk denies that she staged a stunt where a woman was filmed throwing diluted bleach at the crotches of men whose legs were sprawled out over multiple seats on the St Petersburg Metro. But media reports suggested one of the men was an actor, and a European Union website has described the film as “staged Kremlin propaganda”. So, is it real or just a hoax? And how does it fit into a larger pattern of Russian social media bots and trolls stoking culture wars online? Reporter: Marco Silva Producer: Anisa Subedar (Photo: Screenshot from the ‘manspreading’ video that went viral in Russia. Credit: Anna Dovgalyuk)
10/19/201822 minutes, 59 seconds
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The Men Who Hunt Stolen Motorbikes

In Bristol, in the south-west of England, motorbike theft is rife, and criminals use social media to brag about their exploits and even extort money from their victims. But some bikers, sick of losing their treasured possessions, have started to take matters into their own hands. They’ve formed a Facebook group to try to hunt down stolen motorbikes. And using the tips from group members, they try to hunt down the stolen motorbikes and reunite them with their owners. But will their plan work? Presenters: Jonathan Griffin, Natalia Zuo Producer: Anisa Subedar Studio Manager: James Beard Photo Caption: Volunteer motorbike hunters Martin Bailey and Domonik Wojcik of Stolen Motorcycle Recovery Bristol prepare to track down stolen goods Photo Credit: BBC
10/12/201823 minutes, 7 seconds
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The People Who Remove Your Facebook Posts

They decide what you can and can’t see on the world’s biggest social network. Who are Facebook’s content moderators? We speak to a woman who worked in a moderation centre in Germany, often watching violent and pornographic videos and deciding what posts should be deleted. What do people who police content think of what support Facebook gives employees, and what are their daily working lives actually like? Presenter: Anisa Subedar Reporter: Jamie Bartlett Producer: Gemma Newby Studio Manager: Tom Brignell Photo Credit: Getty Images
10/5/201822 minutes, 31 seconds
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The Truth Behind a Viral Murder Video

The BBC investigative team Africa Eye used open-source techniques to find out who was responsible for a shocking crime. In July 2018, a horrifying video began to circulate on social media. It shows two women and two young children being led away at gunpoint by a group of soldiers. The captives are blindfolded, forced to the ground and shot 22 times. The government of Cameroon initially dismissed the video as “fake news.” But through open-source investigation – examining details such as buildings, shadows, and uniforms – BBC Africa Eye has been able to find out where the video was filmed, when it was filmed, and who was responsible. Their findings place the blame squarely on Cameroonian forces. Presenter: Anisa Subedar Producer: Reha Kansara (Photo: A still from the video showing the murder of women and children by Cameroonian soldiers)
9/28/201823 minutes
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Can Social Media Help You Lose Weight?

Do dieting influencers and communities help or hurt when you’re trying to get in shape? If you’re trying to lose weight you might have tried out exercise tips and diet recipes you’ve seen online. Some find social media groups a useful source of support, but there are concerns that some of the advice might not be as healthy as it seems, and that social media celebrities are setting unhelpful and unrealistic body expectations. So how can you cut through all the noise, and which social networks might be better than others when it comes to losing weight? Presenter: Mike Wendling Reporter: Anisa Subedar Studio manager: James Beard Photo Caption: A woman stands on a bathroom scale Photo Credit: Getty Images
9/21/201822 minutes, 47 seconds
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Arrested for Saving Memes in Russia

Why are some Russians put on extremist watch lists for saving or posting memes online? Maria Motuznaya was investigated by police after saving edgy memes on her account on the social network VKontakte. They showed a character from the series Game of Thrones and smoking nuns, and in at least one case, a racial slur. She’s not alone. Maria and hundreds of Russians are being placed on an extremist watch list for using memes declared to be racist, offensive or against the Russian Orthodox Church. People on the list have their bank account frozen and Maria and others face criminal charges. Why is this happening - and will a campaign launched by a Russian blogger make a difference? Presenter: Mike Wendling Producer: Lee Kumutat (Photo: A pair of hands in handcuffs hold a mobile phone showing the VKontakte website. Credit: Anton Vaganov/Interpress/TASS)
9/14/201823 minutes, 41 seconds
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Did Facebook Fuel Hate in Myanmar?

Facebook’s dream of a more open and connected world turned into a nightmare in Myanmar. Ethnic tensions between the Buddhist majority and the Rohingya minority had been simmering for decades when the country started opening up to outside business. The price of a smartphone SIM card dropped from around $200 to $2, and Facebook quickly became the app of choice. But despite multiple warnings, Facebook failed to control hate speech against Rohingyas, and had very few employees who could read Burmese. The company was criticised in a UN report - so what exactly went so wrong online in Myanmar? Presenter: Mike Wendling Reporter: Anisa Subedar Producer: Edward Main Studio Manager: Graham Puddifoot Photo Caption: Rohingya refugees pictured in August 2017 Photo Credit: Getty Images
9/7/201822 minutes, 43 seconds
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The Influencer Business

Earlier this year, a baker in Liverpool in north-west England vented her frustration on Twitter over constantly being asked by social media influencers for free cakes. Laura Worthington tweeted: “I wasn't kidding when I said this happens a lot.” Many other businesses publicly sided with Laura Worthington on social media… but were they being fair? We investigate the impact of influencers – people with large and/or powerful social media followings. What are the rules and ethics around advertising and promotion? And can we really trust the people behind big social media accounts? After all, their reputations rest in part on the idea of authenticity. Presenters: Jonathan Griffin and Lee Kumutat Producer: Lee Kumutat Studio manager: Nigel Appleton Photo Caption: Influencer Lisa Linh promotes a number of brands – including hotels and credit card companies Photo Credit: Lisa Linh
8/31/201822 minutes, 55 seconds
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Virtually Making a Fortune?

Why are people spending real money to buy land that only exists in virtual reality? In the virtual world of Decentraland, users can build whatever they can imagine on their own plots of land. Some hope to make a profit by trading goods and services using the social platform’s own cryptocurrency. Could this be the birth of a new virtual economy or a cryptocurrency bubble waiting to burst? Presenter: Jonathan Griffin Reporter: Joanne Whalley Producer: Lee Kumutat Studio Manager: James Beard Editor: Ed Main Photo Caption: This is Decentraland Photo Credit: This is Decentraland
8/24/201822 minutes, 26 seconds
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What is #QAnon?

Back in October 2017, an anonymous figure posted a series of cryptic messages on an online message board. The user, who signed themselves "Q", claimed to have top security clearance within the US government. Despite there being no credible evidence for the claims, “Q” has sparked a vast, endlessly-complicated pro-Trump conspiracy theory. The far-fetched story has since jumped from fringe message boards to the floor of a President Trump rally. We look at the story behind the mysterious “Q”. Presenters: Mike Wendling and Anisa Subedar Producer: Elizabeth Cassin
8/17/201822 minutes, 56 seconds
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Life As A YouTube Child Star

What’s it like to be a young YouTube star? Siblings Jaadin and Arabella Daho's lives have significantly changed since they went viral on YouTube in 2015. At just 10 and 11 years old their videos racked up 17 million views. They have since launched a YouTube career and are the main source of income for their family – their mum is their manager. But along with the money and fame has come abuse, both online and off. How has YouTube stardom affected these teenagers and their family? Presenter: Jonathan Griffin Reporter: Gem O’Reilly (Photo: Jaadin and Arabella Daho shooting one of their YouTube videos)
8/10/201823 minutes, 29 seconds
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The Sandy Hook Hoaxers – Update

An update on the people behind a paranoid conspiracy theory. Twenty-six people, mostly young children, died at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. They were the victims of a man named Adam Lanza, who killed himself after the slaughter. It was a shocking tragedy, even in a country used to regular gun violence. Soon false rumours began to circulate online, that the attacks were staged using actors. Although they had no basis in truth, hundreds of YouTube videos, blogs, and tweets repeated the conspiracy theories. And the rumours were pushed by an alternative media mogul named Alex Jones. His online news site Infowars has millions of listeners and viewers. He’s interviewed President Trump, who has repeated Infowars stories on his Twitter feed and in speeches. One of the fathers who lost their children in the shooting was Lenny Pozner, whose son Noah was killed. As the “hoaxers” went to greater extremes to spread their fake news – even targeting grieving parents - Lenny Pozner led the online fight back. In April, the parents of Noah Pozner filed a defamation lawsuit against Jones. And now, amid concern about conspiracies and “fake news”, big social media companies have shut down Infowars and Alex Jones accounts. This is an update of a story that was originally broadcast in March 2017. Presenter: Mike Wendling Reporter: Sam Judah Studio managers: James Beard and John Scott Photo Caption: Alex Jones, founder of Infowars Photo Credit: Getty Images
8/10/201823 minutes, 8 seconds
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#MeToo: What’s Next? (Part 2 of 2)

We look at what lies ahead for #MeToo, the hashtag which became a world movement in October 2017. In the second of a two-part series, we have a panel discussion with Washington Post columnist Megan McArdle, author Kirsty Allison and gender justice specialist Natalie Collins. We hear from journalist and activist, Meghna Pant who describes an incident known as “eve teasing”, a common term used in some South Asian countries to encompass a wide variety of sexual street harassment. We also explore place of men in the #MeToo debate after American actor Terry Crews appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee, telling them that he was sexually assaulted by a “successful Hollywood agent”. Is there space for men in the movement? Presenter: Anisa Subedar Producer: Lee Kumutat Studio Manager: John Scott Photo Credit: Getty Images
7/27/201823 minutes, 11 seconds
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#MeToo: What’s Next? (Part 1 of 2)

What’s the future of #MeToo? In October 2017, the hashtag became a worldwide movement in the wake of allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein – who denies the charges against him. But what began as a fightback against sexual harassment and assault has now become a broader movement. And the hashtag and the campaign have been translated into dozens of languages and cultures around the world. In the first of a two-part series, we host a panel discussion with writer Kirsty Allison, gender justice expert Natalie Collins and Washington Post columnist Megan McCardle – with contributions from Nigerian lawyer Ayesha Osori and a Russian woman who was the victim of sexual assault. Has #MeToo created a deeper solidarity between women - or are some excluded from the conversation? What concrete changes have happened – and what’s on the horizon? Presenter: Anisa Subedar Producers: Lee Kumutat Studio Manager: Neil Churchill Picture Caption: A #MeToo sign at a rally in South Korea Picture Credit: Getty Images
7/20/201823 minutes, 12 seconds
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Where Do Memes Come From?

They spread like wildfire, but where do they come from? This week, the world of memes. What goes viral online might seem random, but memes can be engineered and hacked to carry political messages. Trending talks to Gianluca Stringhini, associate professor at University College London. His team has been looking into fringe internet groups – they’ve found that some far-right websites and message boards have a disproportionate impact on the memes that spread on mainstream social networks. Presenter: Mike Wendling Producer: Anisa Subedar Studio Manager: Mike Wooley Picture Caption: One example of the “Distracted Boyfriend” meme Picture Credit: Getty/iStock/BBC
7/6/201818 minutes, 14 seconds
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The Silver Snipers

The booming global gaming industry is dominated by young people. But five pensioners who call themselves the “Silver Snipers”are proof of gaming’s wider appeal. Trending follows the team as they head to DreamHack, a professional eSports tournament in Sweden. Not only is gaming a hobby that connects them with their grandchildren’s generation, but it’s also helped them through some tough times in life. They’re keen to shoot their virtual enemies, and they have plenty of young fans, but can the Silver Snipers take down their arch rivals from Finland, the Grey Gunners? Presenters: Jonathan Griffin and Natalia Zuo Producer: Lee Kumutat Editor: Mike Wendling Image caption: A team photo of the Silver Snipers / Credit: BBC
6/29/201822 minutes, 49 seconds
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A Transgender Twitter Fight

It was one short tweet. A transgender activist Miranda Yardley called another transgender activist, Aimee Challenor, a “man”. It certainly wasn’t the first controversial or potentially offensive remark that Miranda Yardley had tweeted out, but it does appear that it was the final straw for Twitter, which handed her a permanent ban. While Miranda says that her views should be protected under the principle of free speech, Aimee says the tweet - and other comments posted online - were part of a long pattern of bullying and harassment. Trending explores the complicated political world of transgender activism and how philosophical battles within transgender communities are playing out on social media. Presenter: Lee Kumutat Reporter: Mike Wendling (Photo: Illustration of people going from woman to man Credit: Getty Images)
6/22/201822 minutes, 54 seconds
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The Mysterious Wikipedia Editor

Who is “Philip Cross”? That’s the name on an account that has made more than 130,000 Wikipedia edits since 2004. But it’s not so much the volume of his work but his subject matter that has irritated anti-war politicians and journalists around the world. His detractors claim that he’s biased against them and that his influence has made some entries unreliable. It’s a charge that’s rejected by the foundation behind Wikipedia, but the person behind Philip Cross remains elusive. So what happened when we tried to track him down? Presenters: Lee Kumutat, Jonathan Griffin Studio Manager: Mike Woolley Picture Caption: Screenshot of the online encyclopaedia Wikipedia, one of the world’s most popular websites. Picture Credit: Getty
6/15/201823 minutes, 5 seconds
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A Vegan YouTube Court Drama

Anna Scanlon made videos about her vegan lifestyle. It was a good way to build connections and keep in touch with people from back home. But one day she angered a fellow vegan blogger. What happened next was, she says, a nightmarish scenario in which she became a target for abuse and unfounded rumours. She was even accused of performing sex acts on camera. She appealed to social media companies but got little response. And now she has filed a lawsuit which is about to lead to a trial – and which might have big implications when it comes to defamation online. Presenter: Anisa Subedar Reporter: Gem O’Reilly (Photo: Anna Scanlon)
6/8/201822 minutes, 59 seconds
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Mexico’s Fake News Problem

This year Mexico will hold both its presidential and congressional election at the same time. With such high stakes, political parties are being accused of systemically using bots and cyber trolls to spread online propaganda – even though they deny this. Researchers and activists have catalogued examples of bots and troll farms being used to promote specific candidates Initiatives such as Verificado 2018 and the blog Lo Que Sigue (“What’s Next”) are popping up around the country to help combat the spread of fake news and online propaganda. But will such efforts have any impact? Presenter: Anisa Subedar Producer: Reha Kansara (Photo: Automated accounts boosted the 2012 presidential campaign of Enrique Pena Nieto. Credit: Getty Images)
5/25/201822 minutes, 6 seconds
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Nigeria’s Secret Transgender Groups

After comments by writer and author Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche divided opinion, we speak to members of some of Nigeria’s secret gay and transgender on groups who rely on each other on social media for support. They communicate with each other in private and closed ambiguously named WhatsApp and Facebook groups. Joey Daley from Ohio has documented his mother Molly’s dementia. One film in which she failed to recognise him for the first time was viewed nearly 2 million times. Joey speaks to BBC Trending about how it feels to care for someone with dementia. Presenter: Mike Wendling Producer: Anisa Subedar (Image/Credit: Miss Sahhara)
3/18/201718 minutes, 41 seconds
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Antifascists v Alt.Right

The Alt.Right in the US is locked in a fierce ideological battle with Antifa - a group of anti-fascists. We investigate online dirty tricks by both sides. And debunking myths in India. How the country is getting to grips with the spread of fake news on an untrackable social platform. Producer: Anisa Subedar (Image: Protest, Credit: Getty Images)
2/18/201719 minutes, 13 seconds
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NATO’s Claims of Russian ‘Misinformation’

A Russian-funded online new agency has an office in Scotland. We look into allegations of ‘misinformation’ . Is it another just another perspective on news or is an example of what some call ‘Russia’s state-run propaganda machine’? Produced by Anisa Subedar and Will Yates. Image caption: Online agency branding / Image credit: BBC
2/11/201718 minutes, 19 seconds
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China’s Rush For Divorce

Happy couples in Shanghai have been rushing to divorce because of rumours of rules change that would make it more expensive for them to buy property. Our second story looks at the first anniversary of the death of three-year-old Alan Kurdi. Did the iconic image of Syrian toddler’s body washed up on a beach lead to real changes in public opinion and the way governments treat refugees? Producers: Anisa Subedar and Sam Judah (Photo credit to Think Stock)
9/3/201617 minutes, 28 seconds