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20 October 2014 Last updated at 06:50

The tragic case of Nigeria's 'bird' woman

A man beating a crowd back with a branch The woman is concealed from view behind an official, who beats back the Lagos crowd with a branch

Footage of a badly burnt woman being berated by a crowd in Nigeria has been watched hundreds of thousands of times on YouTube.

The film begins in a blur. An angry mob and a policewoman can just be made out, gathered in a circle on the dusty ground. As the camera finds its focus, the grim reality becomes clear. In the middle of the circle sits a woman, almost naked, her body bloodied and burnt.

The title of the video, "Flying Bird turn into old woman in Oshodi", doesn't appear to explain the disturbing scene, but its description, and a local news article, combine to create an unusual narrative. Eyewitnesses quoted by the newspaper say a black bird had been flying in the sky over Oshodi, in Lagos, before striking an electrical cable, falling to earth and transforming into a woman. The same eyewitnesses say she confessed to being a witch.

The video, uploaded to YouTube on October 10, has been watched more than 215,000 times, and the figure is still growing fast. Similar videos of the distressed woman, shot by other members of the crowd, have also gained tens of thousands of views. Much of the reaction online suggests many believe the theory, and the film has even been the subject of comedy spin-offs on YouTube. But many express anger and concern as well: "This is truly barbaric," reads one, and "it is a cover up [for] murder," says another. The woman in the video died shortly after it was shot, as police took her to hospital.

Banke Idowu was one of those who filmed a video of the woman - in her case she was asked by a journalist friend to go to the scene. She tells BBC Trending that as she arrived, she was told about the metamorphosis by others in the crowd. She herself believes the explanation of witchcraft. "I've never seen it in real life, but I've heard about it and seen it in films, so when they said it happened, I believed it." Asked if she failed in her duty to protect the woman, Idowu says that in stepping in, she would have been putting her own life at risk. "Some people may think you belong to the same cult, and they may end up attacking you."

The journalist friend who asked her to visit - Adeola Fayehun - is based in New York, and heard what was happening on Twitter - showing how quickly news of the incident spread on social media.

Kenneth Nwosu, a police spokesperson, is unable to shed light on the events preceding the video. "We got a call that the mob was surrounding a woman at a bus stop. The priority was to save her life," he says. In the film an official can be seen beating the crowd back with a branch. The police took the woman to hospital, but say she died on route. Nwosu says an autopsy will be performed to establish the cause of death. As yet, she remains unidentified, and no arrests have been made.

Accusations of witchcraft remain common in this part of the world, says Hermione Harris, a social anthropologist at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. "In a secular society like ours it's very hard to grasp a belief in supernatural forces." But the notion of witches and wizards is embedded in a form of Pentecostal Christianity that is popular in Nigeria, she explains.

In New York, Fayehun is hopeful that the exposure the film has received on social media will start to change the way people behave in future. Whatever the crowd believed had happened to the woman, they still had a responsibility to help her, she says. "Now the video is out there, the people who were involved will start to rethink their decisions in situations like this."

Reporting by Charlotte McDonald, Mukul Devichand and Sam Judah

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Lawyer brings baby to court, gets 'humiliated'


When a lawyer asked a Georgia judge to postpone a hearing because she'd just had a baby, he refused. When she brought the baby to court, he berated her for poor parenting.

Social media have responded with overwhelming support for the lawyer, sharing - almost 7,000 times in one day - her formal complaint filed against the judge, as well as an article from the website Jezebel.

Stacy M Ehrisman-Mickle had asked the Atlanta court to delay an immigration hearing while she was on maternity leave. "But that excuse just wasn't good enough for Judge J Dan Pelletier Sr, who shot down her request (with just a week's notice, no less)," writes Jezebel's Kelly Faircloth. "THAT'LL TEACH YOU TO REPRODUCE WHILE TRYING TO DRAW A SALARY."

According to Ms Ehrisman-Mickle's complaint, she had no choice but to bring her infant to court, where Mr Pelletier "humiliated" her.

"When the [immigration judge] saw me with my daughter, he was outraged," she writes. "He then questioned my mothering skills, as he commented how my paediatrician must be appalled that I am exposing my daughter to so many germs in court."

The judge became the focus of online outrage, including from several attorneys who said sexism is still common in the courtroom

One Jezebel commenter says she recently heard a judge call a female colleague a "brat".

"While I haven't been practising long, comments like that are made to female attorneys unacceptably frequently," she writes.

Another says the US court system has no legal requirement to grant "any kind" of leave. "Can someone explain why I should feel that this is horrible?"

"Motions to continue are very, very routine," said Prof Jason A Cade of the University of Georgia.

"You have to show good cause and only ask for a reasonable amount of time in extension… I made this exact request at the time that my first son was born, and it was granted."

Mr Case says bearing children is generally something judges recognise as a reasonable cause.

Reporting by Micah Luxen

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What do people really look for on Tinder?

Tinder is a dating app based on first impressions. Ever since it arrived, users have tried to figure out the secret to what makes someone swipe right when they see a photo (signifying a desire to know more) versus swiping left (a quick rejection).

In New York, some romantic hopefuls have turned to a photographer who specialises in Tinder head shots. A professional photo, they say, will catch the eye of potential partners.

But one writer found that it's not the quality of the photo but the signifiers it includes - messages about race, class and educational background - that is most likely to influence swipes.

Colm O'Molloy talked to both camps to discover the secret of love at first sight.

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Pakistani cleric accused of being 'drunk'

A television news discussion

A leading Islamic scholar in Pakistan who appeared to slur his words on live TV has become the subject of ridicule on social media.

When it comes to Islamic clerics in Pakistan, few are more senior than Hafiz Tahir Ashrafi. His opinion on Islamic scripture is sought by the nation's lawmakers. But this is a country where it is illegal for Muslims to drink alcohol, so it's unsurprising that his apparently intoxicated appearance on a late night talk show has caused controversy. He made a seemingly slurred speech criticizing the moral conduct of Pakistani cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan. As he spoke, one of the TV hosts visibly tried to hide his amusement.

The accusation that he was "drunk" came the next day, on social media. In Pakistan, where YouTube is officially banned, footage of the TV show soon appeared on Dailymotion, another video sharing website. One clip alone has been viewed more than 290,000 times, and been shared more than 3,500 times on Facebook. There was outrage on social media. "Drunk mullah on live TV and he gets away with it. The society is a joke," said one tweet. Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid wrote: "What an interesting clip feat Maulana Ashrafi worth watching 2 understand #maulvis in #pakistan double standards."

But there are signs the social media criticism of Ashrafi may have been orchestrated. Several Twitter users commenting on the video identified themselves as supporters of Imran Khan's political party, the PTI, and others said they were members of the PAT, led by Sufi cleric Tahir ul-Qadri's. BBC Trending spoke to Dr Awab Alvi who is part of the PTI party's social media team. He admitted the party had made a deliberate social media effort to criticise Ashrafi. "The cleric used his mixed political and Islamic agenda to defame Imran Khan's character," he says, "he picked a raw nerve and we rubbed it in."

Ashrafi himself is now exploring legal action against those who accused him of being drunk. In an interview with BBC Trending, he denied having consumed alcohol and instead said he had been chewing paan, a traditional mixture of tobacco leaves. He says he is being deliberately targeted because the PUC, a body of religious scholars that he chairs, opposes recent street protests by Khan and Qadri's parties. "I see political and religious propaganda behind the social media uproar," he says. The incident continues to trend on social media, with internet memes showing paan-flavoured alcohol and film posters mocking his appearance.

Reporting by Samiha Nettikkara

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Who is the 'Clipboard Man'?

A man with a clipboard watches Ebola patient Amber Vinson being loaded onto a plane.

A man standing without a protective suit near a US Ebola patient sent social media users into a panicked frenzy yesterday.

He was dubbed the "Clipboard Man" after news media showed a man wearing a shirt and trousers, and carrying a clipboard. He was interacting with four medical workers wearing white protective hazmat suits as they boarded a plane transporting nurse Amber Vinson, the second person infected with Ebola in the US, from Dallas, Texas, to Atlanta, Georgia.

More than 3,000 people on Twitter together tried to find the identity of the "Clipboard Man". Users first linked him to the US's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Conservative columnist Michelle Malkin tweeted: "Dear @cdcgov Who is unprotected clipboard dude ... so we can all stay the hell away from him!"

Another user tweeted: "That man just gives me chills whenever I see this image. No protective gear! Unbelievable! #Ebola#clipboardman"

The mystery of the Clipboard Man was solved after a spokesperson for Phoenix Air, the airline on which Vinson flew, told ABC News he was their medical protocol supervisor. "Our medical professionals in the biohazard suits have limited vision and mobility, and it is the protocol supervisor's job to watch each person carefully and give them verbal directions to ensure no close contact protocols are violated. There is absolutely no problem with this and in fact ensures an even higher level of safety for all involved."

The #Clipboardman conversation is proof that the media is doing an "awful job" explaining Ebola, according to The Verge website. Ebola is spread by direct contact with contaminated body fluids like blood, vomit, saliva and faeces.

Reporting by Samiha Nettikara

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The Chilean priests who defend gay rights

A screenshot of an online petition

A solidarity movement in support of three liberal Catholic priests has trended on social media in Chile this week.

It started with a message to the Pope that was meant to be private. On Sunday, the La Tercera newspaper reported that a Chilean archbishop and cardinal, Ricardo Ezzati, sent a secret complaint to the Vatican against three priests - Felipe Berríos, Mariano Puga and José Aldunate. All three are well-known in the country for regularly criticising the leaders of the Chilean Catholic Church, and for speaking out in favour of gay rights and abortion rights. The priests actions are being examined by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, according to reports.

The word "Ezzati" started trending on Twitter on Sunday, when the newspaper report was published, and was used more than 10,000 times that day on the platform. Others got involved using Facebook. The majority of the social media comments seem to be from Chileans speaking in support of the three priests. "Ezzati defends the doctrine. His antagonists defend humanity", tweeted. "If Ezzati dares to complain about Berríos, Puga and Aldunate to the Vatican, sensible Catholics should complain about Ezzati," tweeted Pablo Simonetti, a novelist and prominent campaigner in the gay rights movement in Chile.

On Tuesday, a statement from the Archdioceses of Santiago tried to clarify the situation. Archbishop Ezzati didn't make a complaint to the Vatican, it said, but was simply responding to a request for more information. Regardless, supporters of the three priests created an online petition calling for "a transparent process", and demanding "open dialogue" with Church leaders.

Luis Larrain, head of Chilean gay rights campaign group Iguales, who had jokingly called for one of the priests to be appointed archbishop, spoke to BBC Trending. He says Arhcbishop Ezzati's intervention was "annoying, because we were trying to open channels for discussion with the Church". He fears that these events could undermine that dialogue, he says. Many have now called for a demonstration against Ezzati's decision in front of Santiago Cathedral today. Chile is a predominantly Catholic country, and is socially conservative - for example it forbids, and penalises, any kind of abortion. A 2011 study reported that 52% of Chileans supported same sex unions.

Reporting by Constanza Hola Chamy

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The morality of Ebola costumes

On BBC Trending, we recently blogged about a controversial Ebola Halloween costume that has gone on sale in America - prompting a flurry of responses to our Twitter handle, @BBCtrending.

We reported that nearly 30,000 people have taken to social media this month to debate whether Ebola-themed Halloween costumes are a great idea, or yet another indication of society's moral decay. On Twitter, we asked whether these outfits were a question of humour or horror.

Here are some of your responses:

Twitter response
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What do you think? You can continue the conversation online by tweeting us @BBCtrending or commenting below.

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Ebola Halloween costume: humour or horror?

A website selling an "Ebola containment suit costume" for $79.99

Almost 30,000 people have taken to social media this month to debate whether Ebola-themed Halloween costumes, be they home-made or store-bought, are a great idea or yet another indication of society's moral decay.

Brands on Sale is advertising the "Ebola containment suit costume, a kit that includes a protective bodysuit, goggles and breathing mask. Johnathon Weeks, the company's vice president, says they sold about two dozen on Wednesday and expect to move well over a thousand by the end of the month.

"This is an Ebola containment healthcare worker costume; it's not the Ebola disease costume; it's not an Ebola victim costume," says Mr Weeks. "It's no different in my eyes than what a firefighter costume would be, or doctors and nurses costume. Those people save lives every day, just like these people are."

Making light of tragedy is a common way people cope with their greatest fears, according to Penn State Altoona Prof Jerry Zolten, who teaches a class in stand-up comedy. It's also an easy way to get a big reaction.


"Some people delight in shocking their friends and are among the first to tell jokes about things that are putting fear in everybody's minds," Zolten says.

He says a joke like this can be a way to deal with stress.

"It's well known that people who are in high-risk jobs - ambulance workers, people who see horrible things all the time - will joke about it amongst themselves right there on the job, as needed."

He cautions, however, that this doesn't always extend to the general public.


Indeed, for many online, donning an Ebola-themed Halloween costume seems like a callous way to approach a serious situation.

Chances are that the appearance of trick-or-treater or Halloween partygoer dressed in a bio-hazard suit will cause more unease than laughter, as similarly-clad healthcare workers scramble to deal with a disease that has left thousands dead in Western Africa.

Reporting by Micah Luxen

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Syria's nine-year-old YouTube storyteller

Like many children in Syria's conflict, nine-year-old Rasha's life has been changed forever by the civil war. She has witnessed the destruction of her part of Aleppo by shelling, and can no longer attend school because of the danger.

But unlike others her age, she has a different life on YouTube. She has become the star of "Umm Abduh", a YouTube series satirising the war which was uploaded during Ramadan, and is now about to be broadcast on TV.

Mukul Devichand of #BBCtrending reports.

Video journalist: Greg Brosnan

Additional production: Mamdouh Akbiek

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Will a Bolivian politician eat his watch?

Jorge "Tuto" Quiroga about to eat a clock Photoshopped images of Quiroga soon appeared online

Be careful what you promise, or you could end up eating your watch. That seems to be the moral for a presidential candidate in Bolivia after the elections last Sunday.

Former president Jorge "Tuto" Quiroga, one of those challenging incumbent President Evo Morales in a national vote this week, made an election promise that may, in retrospect, have been unwise. He promised to eat his watch if "six out of 10 Bolivians" voted for Morales.

He was so confident that Morales wouldn't make it that he also promised to eat his tie in another interview days later. And now, social media users want to hold him to his word. It has taken several days to count and announce the full results, but early signs suggest that Morales is hovering right around the 60% mark. And so of course, people have taken to Twitter and Facebook to demand that Quiroga keeps his promise.

"When will Tuto Quiroga eat his watch?" asked one. Tuffi Aré, a journalist and prominent Twitter user who interviewed Quiroga before the ballots, tweeted: "Tuto says he will wait for the official figures came out before he eats his watch. He promised me he would eat his tie as well and it is on record."

Humorous memes spread over Facebook and Twitter too. "People were calling him to account and asking him to honour his word," says Priscilla Quiroga, producer and presenter of "Levántate Bolivia" (Get Up, Bolivia), a breakfast television presenter, and a Twitter celebrity in Bolivia.

Quiroga accuses Morales' government of falsifying the election results. Although many Bolivians have commented or shared watch jokes on Facebook and Twitter, the conversation has the partisan tone you might expect. Many of the accounts encouraging Mr Quiroga to eat his watch were linked to president Morales supporters.

In an interview with BBC Trending, Quiroga didn't want to talk about the social media taunts. "The important thing is not the watch. The serious thing is that Morales doesn't have enough votes," he says.

With 90.94% of the votes now counted, Morales has 60.06% of the vote, according to figures published by the Bolivian electoral commission. The final results are expected to be announced today.

Reporting by Constanza Hola Chamy

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Was HK protester's 'beating' played down?

A YouTube video showing an injured man

Did a Hong Kong TV station play down police brutality towards a pro-democracy protester?

The video has shocked people around the world. It shows a group of Hong Kong police officers leading protester Ken Tsang down a dark street and throwing him to the ground. Some kick him and strike him with batons while others stand guard. The incident was caught on camera and broadcast on TVB, a Hong Kong television channel.

After initially posting it to their website as well, the powers that be at TVB removed the footage, but not before it was copied and uploaded to YouTube multiple times. One copy alone has been viewed more than 250,000 times, and other versions have tens of thousands of views each.

Today, several TVB journalists wrote an open letter, apologising to viewers for the way their station's management presented the story. In early morning broadcasts, the script accompanying the video stated that the police "placed him on the ground, and then punched and kicked" at Tsang. Between 7:00 and 12:00 local time, the phrase was removed altogether by the station's senior managers. And after 12:00, a different phrase - "the police are suspected of having used violence against him" - was inserted.

The journalists say that the crucial phrase "拳打腳踢" (punched and kicked) was a "reflection of the facts", and the management's decision to remove it made them "extremely uncomfortable". Posted five hours ago, the letter has received more than 32,000 likes, and been shared more than 10,000 times. It has drawn the support of the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA), and several trade unions.

Keith Yuen, TVB's news director, has defended the stations' decision to remove the footage from their website, because the incident was subject to a police investigation. The HKJA says that since the report was factual, there was no need to remove it. Yuen is seen by many as opposing the demonstrations, and supporting the Chinese governement. He was reportedly one of the first journalists to shake hands with the Chinese leader Li Peng in the wake of the massacre at Tiananmen Square.

Reporting by Sam Judah and Samiha Nettikkara

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Ebola: How panic is spreading faster than the virus

A woman covering her nose at a hospital.

Besides a small number of cases in the US and Spain, the Ebola outbreak remains confined to West Africa. But that hasn't stopped the spread of rumours and false alarms, spurred on by on social media.

On Sunday afternoon at one of Chile's busiest hospitals, an announcement blurted out over the loudspeakers. "Can I have your attention, please. We have a patient who is suspected to have Ebola. Please leave the room and go to another hospital," it said. Covering their mouths, the patients began to flee, but not before one recorded the announcement on a camera phone. She posted it to YouTube under the name "Possible Ebola case in Chile" and, of course, it went viral. In less than 24 hours, the video was seen more than 120,000 times.

From YouTube, the rumour spread to Twitter. The hashtag #EbolaenChile (Ebola in Chile) started trending soon after, and was used almost 20,0000 times over the following day. Mainstream media outlets who saw the tweets started reporting that there was an Ebola case. But the initial announcement in the hospital had said there was a "suspected" case, and it was never in fact confirmed. A few hours later, Chile's ministry of health revealed what had actually happened: the patient in question had travelled to Equatorial Guinea, where have been no confirmed cases of Ebola. But many in Chile were confusing it with Guinea, one of countries actually hit by the outbreak, which is thousands of miles away.

"The case blew up very quickly and the government failed to react to what was happening on social media," explains Eduardo Arriagada, a prominent Chilean Social Media analyst and columnist. "They took too long to say that the patient came from a country free of Ebola." The ministry eventually confirmed that that patient had malaria, not Ebola.

False Ebola rumours have spread in other countries, too. After a Spanish nurse became the first person known to have contracted the virus outside West Africa, conspiracy theories began to spread there as well. Many received a message which said there were secret government-controlled isolation areas in parts of Madrid, and that two other medical staff were showing symptoms. Images of fake news headlines were sent via Whatsapp, and posted on Facebook. "New case of Ebola found in Burger King," read one. None of the claims turned out to be true.

And when Brazil's ministry of health announced a suspected Ebola case last week - which turned out to be a false alarm - it triggered pandemonium online. The word "Ebola" was used 120,000 times on Twitter in Portuguese in less than a day. BBC Brasil's social media editor, Bruno Garcez, says racist associations soon began to emerge. "People started associating the deadly virus with the skin colour of the man from Guinea thought to have it," he says. "Ebola is a black people's thing," tweeted one. "Could someone tell me why these black people from Africa with this bacteria have to live here (sic)," another wrote. Both tweets now appear to be deleted. "Black" was the term most used in association with "Ebola" on public Facebook profiles.

Reporting by Constanza Hola Chamy

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Israel's unwelcome 'infiltrators'

The behaviour of Israelis demonstrating against undocumented African migrants has caused intense debate on social media.

A video showing a group of Tel Aviv residents chanting slogans against African asylum seekers has been widely shared.

Anne-Marie Tomchak of BBC Trending reports on the debate around African migrants and Israeli attitudes towards them.

Video journalist: Greg Brosnan

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Worker seeks pay rise in mass email

A Wells Fargo bank branch in Oakland, California.

A Wells Fargo employee in Portland, Oregon, thinks he and his co-workers deserve a raise - and he wants everyone to know.

Tyrel Oates, who works in the bank's collections department, spent two weeks gathering more than 200,000 email addresses of fellow employees. He then cc-ed them in a message asking Wells Fargo head John Stumpf to help address income inequality in the US.

"My proposal is take $3bn [£1.88bn], just a small fraction of what Wells Fargo pulls in annually, and raise every employee's annual salary by $10,000," he writes in his email, which was subsequently posted on the social media site Reddit.

Mr Oates also has a message for his fellow workers: "[I]t is time that we demand to be rightfully compensated for the hard work that we accomplish, and for the great part we all have played in the success of this company."

The story was tweeted thousands of times and shot to the top of "most popular" lists on sites like The Washington Post.

Molly Young, a reporter for the Oregonian, tells BBC Trending that Mr Oates put a human face on wage stagnation, an issue that is gaining momentum in the US.

"He is at the level of worker that is actually bringing in money and creating profits, and who are not seeing this reflected in their own raises," she says.

Wells Fargo netted $5.7bn in profits in the second quarter. Last year CEO Stumpf was paid about $19m, which Oates notes is more than most Wells Fargo employees will make in their lifetime.

At a Wells Fargo branch in Washington DC, one worker says she found the email "unprofessional, but well written" - and says that she could use a raise. She wonders how much longer Mr Oates will keep his job - a concern echoed by many of the commenters on the Reddit post.

"Now, whenever a hiring manager willing to pay $20/hr Googles the name from his resume, this will come up," writes one Reddit user.

Stumpf hasn't replied, although a bank spokesperson says Wells Fargo's compensation is "market competitive".

For now Oates is still on the Wells Fargo payroll - and his existing salary hasn't budged.

Reporting by Max Matza

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Dropped for supporting #MyCleanIndia?

Earlier this week BBC Trending reported on the Indian prime minister's attempt to clean up India with an online campaign. Now an opposition MP has been sacked from his role as party spokesman, after showing support for the project.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's version of the "Ice Bucket Challenge" was launched with great gusto earlier this month. The online challenge called people to clean up a small patch of India, and nominate others to do the same - tagging their posts with the #MyCleanIndia hashtag.

Shashi Tharoor - MP and spokesman for the opposition Indian National Congress party - was delighted to be nominated by Modi himself. "Honoured to accept the invitation," he tweeted. Congress party members complained that Tharoor shouldn't be supporting the prime minister's campaign. Shortly afterwards the party announced he would be removed from the post, and Tharoor said he accepted the decision.

Now thousands have taken to Twitter using the hashtag #TharoorSacked to criticize the decision of the party. The term has appeared more than 5,000 times in the last 24 hours.

Our earlier report looked at whether the #MyCleanIndia viral challenge was really going viral - click to watch it below.

BBC Trending's original report on the #MyCleanIndia campaign

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Social network defies Seoul government

The Kakao Talk Logo

After a mass exodus of users, one of South Korea's biggest social networks says it will now defy government requests to hand over its users data.

On Friday, BBC Trending reported on the South Koreans fleeing the country's most popular chat app - Kakao Talk. The authorities had threatened to prosecute people using the app to spread rumours about the president, Park Geun-hye. The company behind the app, Daum Kakao, had originally said it would have to comply with government requests to pry into its users conversations. As a result, more than 1.5 million South Koreans signed up to a more secure German chat app called Telegram Messenger.

But yesterday Daum Kakao reversed its position, saying it will no longer respond to government requests for access to private information. Sirgoo Lee, co-CEO of the company, reportedly said he would take full responsibility for the decision, and was prepared to face the legal consequences. "We stopped accepting prosecution warrants to monitor our users' private conversions from 7 October, and hereby announce that we will continue to do so," the Korea Times reports Lee as saying.

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The police officers fired for a kiss

Two Tanzanian police officers kissing

When is it OK to kiss a colleague? Two Tanzanian police officers, whose kiss was widely shared on social media, have prompted a discussion about just that - and both have also lost their jobs.

A relationship with a colleague can throw up any number of complications, but the two young police officers in the picture may not have thought it would end their careers. The photograph - taken in Kagera, north west Tanzania - shows the pair kissing whilst dressed in their work uniforms, and was considered grounds for dismissal. Residents of the country have taken to social media to voice their dismay.

The image was uploaded to the internet by a third officer, who also took the photo, and drawn to the attention of the authorities at the Kagera police force. Henry Mwaibambe, the regional police commander, spoke to the BBC about the steps taken, and defends his department's decision. "We followed all disciplinary procedures to make sure that they were given a chance to defend themselves," he says. "The officer looking at the case was convinced there was compelling evidence against them, and that they had breached police code of conduct. That's why they lost their jobs." In this case it wasn't the kiss itself that led to their dismissal, but the fact that that it happened in public, whilst in uniform, and was subsequently posted online. Indeed, the officer behind the camera also lost his job over the incident.

The story was picked up by the local press last week, and news of the punishment has surprised many on social media. Most believed the response was disproportionate. "They should have been reprimanded, sacking them is extreme, huuh!" posted one on Facebook. "I once saw a pic of former US President the late Reagan kissing his wife in the Oval Office... and nobody called for his impeachment," said another. "Police couple kissing taken more serious than bribery," wrote a third on Twitter.

Masoud George, a lawyer at the Tanzania Legal and Human Rights Center says that as severe as the punishment seems, the decision is unlikely to be illegal. "It is according to their code of conduct, so from a legal point of view we can't say their dismissal was unfair."

Reporting by Sam Judah

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Ebola chat online goes private

The Ebola virus The Ebola virus

Listen to or download the Trending podcast

This week, we report on how social media users in Sierra Leone are talking about Ebola. Conversations about the virus have moved away from public platforms like Facebook and Twitter, onto private groups on WhatsApp. Presenter Mukul Devichand gains access to several of these groups.

The latest BBC Trending

We also ask whether Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's campaign to clean up the country will work. When he launched "Clean India" he nominated nine high profile people to take up the challenge. But are they on board?

You can download and subscribe to our free weekly podcast here and we are on the BBC World Service at 10.30 GMT on Saturdays.

The programme was produced by Anna Meisel.

Is #MyCleanIndia really going viral?

There was huge fanfare last week when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched his version of the "Ice Bucket Challenge".

Rather than fundraising for ALS, he wanted Indians to clean up their country. His video of himself cleaning a Delhi street was widely shared.

But has the #MyCleanIndia challenge really been taken up by Indians? A week on, Mukul Devichand of #BBCtrending asks whether it has really gone viral.

You can follow BBC Trending on Twitter @BBCtrending. All our stories are at

Talking privately about Ebola

A computer generated image of the Ebola virus A computer generated image of the virus

Social media users in Sierra Leone are turning to chat apps to have private conversations about Ebola

"There are certain things that the authorities don't want the public to know" says Emerson Fowai, who works with a public health NGO in Kailahun in eastern Sierra Leone. Over 4,000 West Africans have died from Ebola and the town of Kailahun has been badly hit. There are good public health reasons to monitor the flow of information in the midst of an epidemic - to prevent panic and misinformation. But Fowai is concerned about the restrictions. He claims the government has been downplaying the situation and is reprimanding unofficial voices. "I spoke [publicly] about people who have been quarantined and the authorities asked for my arrest," he says. "So people are afraid to divulge second hand pieces of information."

This pressured environment has had an impact on how people share information. In the early days of the Ebola crisis, social networks like Facebook played an important role. But Facebook isn't completely private. As a result, private groups are being set up on WhatsApp, a smartphone instant messaging service, so that information about Ebola can be shared in a space where conversations can take place more freely.

Fowai says he is part of 32 different closed groups on WhatsApp. BBC Trending has joined four such groups, to get an insight into what is being shared. The groups were initially set up to share news and information about Ebola when little was known about it. Quotes from press releases and news briefings populate the conversations, with updates on aid facilities throughout the country. But people also share more sensitive information. "An ambulance with 8 Ebola patients has fallen into a bridge," one member of a group reports - a claim we can't independently verify. Others share pictures of recent Ebola victims, alive and dead. The groups have also become a forum for people to report their own experiences. One message reads "this is me with surviving Ebola patients in Koindu. They live on the border with Liberia and Guinea. Some of them are orphans, widows and widowers. Their story was rather pathetic." The user uploads an accompanying photograph featuring the survivors in question.

Other WhatsApp posts are of people reminding each other to remain hopeful. One post is entitled "The A-Z of Ebola" and the first for letters are: "A - accept that Ebola is real; B - be careful not to get infected; C - cancel traditional practices that promote the spread of Ebola" and "D - don't touch".

Reporting by Anne-Marie Tomchak,Mukul Devichandand Anna Meisel.

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Rich kids v poor kids in Tehran

A luxury watch and car, and a cheap watch and car Many pictures on the new account juxtaposed luxury items with cheaper variants

On Tuesday BBC Trending reported on the Rich Kids of Tehran Instagram account, dedicated to the glamorous lives of wealthy young Iranians. Now the account has a satirical rival.

The world of the Rich Kids of Tehran is one of designer jewellery, plush houses and smoking shisha pipes by the pool. The Instagram account attracted thousands of followers in just a few weeks, and received widespread media attention, including from the Iranian press. The newly created Poor Kids of Tehran account - as the name suggests - shows a different side of life in the country.

Many of the photos mimic their rich counterparts in their framing and content. The image at the top of this article contrasts someone at the wheel of an Audi with a man behind the dusty wheel of a locally-made Zamyad car. In another, homeless children are seen asleep on newspapers in the city's Azadi Square.

Homeless children This image appears to have been taken in Tehran's Azadi Square

It is not clear who created the account, and not everyone finds its satirical edge appropriate. "Why make this page? The whole point of the Rich Kids of Tehran was to show the western countries that Iran isn't how it is portrayed in their media, and now you've made a page showing everyone the exact opposite," read one comment, later deleted.

Meanwhile, the original Rich Kids of Tehran account has been all but deleted by its administrator. The page, with almost 100,000 followers, says this was due to the "high amount of false publicity". Another page, with fewer followers but many of the same photos, has since been set up. BBC Persian debated the page with their viewers on a television news programme. One man told them the rich can spend their money "in whatever way they wish". His wife then grabbed the phone and called them "bloodsuckers".

Reporting by Thom Poole

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South Korea's chat-app crackdown

South Korean president Park Geun-Hye

The president of South Korea has pledged to prosecute people spreading rumours about her on the Kakao Talk chat app. Now users are fleeing the social network, and seeking refuge in a German alternative.

The story begins at sea. Back in April, 304 people died when the South Korean Sewol ferry capsized just off the country's southern coast - one of the worst maritime disasters in the country's history.

The government of President Park Geun-hye has been widely criticised for its handling of the incident. Protests have broken out in the capital city, and some of the victims' families claim the authorities botched the search and rescue. A recent painting by a prominent artist depicted the president as simply continuing in the footsteps of her father, who had led the country under military rule. And a Japanese newspaper reported that Geun-hye - who is not married - was not in her office on the day of the sinking, but instead meeting with a recently divorced former aide. Seoul has strongly denied the report, calling it "baseless" and "malicious".

Insults and rumours continued to spread, however, and in late September the president announced she was cracking down on the citizens responsible for circulating them. Kakao Talk - a smartphone messaging app used by 35 million of the country's 50 million people - has been one of the her primary targets. The firm is headquartered in South Korea, and some Kakao Talk users have reportedly received notices that their accounts have been searched by investigators.

Participants of a candle-lit rally clash with police following vigil for victims of the Sewol ferry during which they also denounced the government response to the disaster The government's handing of the ferry led to protests in Seoul in May

Now, some 400,000 users have deserted the service, according to, a site which tracks app usage. HwanBong Jung, a journalist in the country, tells BBC Trending that "people feel uncomfortable." The firm has said it cannot deny the government's requests for information, he explains.

The exodus has proved a boon for another chat app - Telegram Messenger - an encrypted messaging service based in Germany, with no servers in South Korea. The company behind the app, founded by the same people that created Vkontakte, Russia's largest social network, says 1.5 million new South Korean users have signed up for the service in the last seven days.

Unlike Kakao Talk, Telegram Messenger offers a "secret chat" option, using end-to-end encryption. The technology means the company is unable to decrypt any of the messages itself, so couldn't hand over information about its users, even if requested.

One South Korean newspaper reports that Kakao defectors have developed a wry greeting when finding each other on Telegram, saying simply: "Welcome to exile."

Reporting by Sam Judah and Thom Poole

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The students spammed by their president

A copy of the Yellow Pages, with the word 'Yellow' changed to 'Bello'

When students at a leading London university were sent a mysterious email from a senior official, the #Bellogate meme was born.

Students at University College London were sent an email last night, purportedly from the university president, Michael Arthur. It simply contained a one word greeting - "bello". By the morning, the message had generated a gigantic email thread, with some students waking up to almost 3,000 unread messages.

The hashtag was the top trend on Twitter overnight in the UK, with more than 5,000 tweets using the term since the "Bello" email appeared. Many shared emails generated in the thread - in which students continued spamming each other with jokes and puns. "Bello? Is it me you're looking for", read one - a play on a Lionel Ritchie song. Others sent invites to cyber security courses, and appealed for missing items of stationery. Some reported they had been signed up to porn sites, dating companies, Alcoholics Anonymous and Sarah Palin's website. A parody account soon emerged.

Most seemed to see the funny side. "Ooo we all just got signed up to the Miley Cyrus mailing list. #Bellogate #BelloCameInLikeAWreckingBall", the UCL Cheesegrater magazine tweeted. One PhD student wrote: "The funniest thing happened to UCL in years, can't stop laughing." While some have questioned UCL's security policies, and expressed frustration about having to delete hundreds of unwanted messages, the sharpest criticism was directed at students who kept posting to the thread, by hitting "reply all" to the original email.

UCL has apologised for "multiple emails" received by students, and shut down the mailing list concerned. It is not known yet who was responsible, although some have jokingly pointed the finger at UCL's rival, King's College. President Arthur has so far remained silent on the matter.

Reporting by Thom Poole

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Far right on Facebook

A far right political group in the UK has half a million followers on Facebook , despite having no democratically elected representatives.

Britain First was set up in 2011 by former members of the British National Party.

In the UK, groups like Britain First and the BNP have failed at the ballot box, but could their social media success lead to real support?

Anne-Marie Tomchak reports.

Video journalist: Greg Brosnan

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Twin Peaks and Gif culture

The internet will be ready for Laura Palmer

Twin Peaks, a murder mystery set in the Pacific North-West, is director David Lynch's seminal TV drama. Originally aired in 1991, the show has become one of the US's biggest cult hits.

Since Lynch announced that a new season of Twin Peaks would be released in 2016 on the US cable network Showtime, phrases associated with the show have spiked on Twitter - #damngoodcoffee (42,000 mentions), David Lynch (24,000) and TwinPeaks (145,000). Tumblr, always a reliable source for Twin Peaks Gifs, is reacting with Log Lady levels of delight.

Despite entering the popular culture in a time before the internet and digital video recording, the show has developed a strong following online.

The Washington Post's pop culture blogger Alyssa Rosenberg says the show is returning to a changed television landscape, but one for which it is well suited.

"It's coming back into a totally different media environment," said Rosenberg. "It's also coming back at a time when the audience of Twin Peaks has grown. It's a show that has had two and a half decades to accumulate a following - people who didn't watch it at the time, as well as people who tuned into every episode and were obsessed, can finally be on the same page."

But will the show go out of its way to cater to a live-tweeting generation?

"The original was built beautifully for remix culture. Whether the second iteration of it has the same moments, I'd be curious to see," said Rosenberg. "Is Lynch as a filmmaker aware of how social media works today? I think it'll be a fascinating experiment."

Lynch's penchant for the strange and off-putting will keep online viewers busy, she predicts.

"Watching new Twin Peaks episodes will give social media users an opportunity to hit the button on Twitter, or whatever medium they're using, to process their experience, not just when something new and surprising happens, but when they see call-backs to the original series," she says.

Reporting by Micah Luxen. Video produced by Micah Luxen and Colm O'Molloy. Filmed and edited by Colm O'Molloy.

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Viral shark snap shows trending technique

Twitter photo of giant shark

With new user-friendly cameras and editing software, the barriers to creating content are almost non-existent. But, as we all remember from high school, the barriers to popularity will always be a challenge.

This summer, New Jersey elementary school teacher Amanda Brewer captured an image of a great white shark, jaws wide and dangerously close, off the coast of South Africa. She uploaded the photo to Instagram last week, where it received over 5,000 likes. Speaking to to TIME Lightbox, the art teacher said she shot the picture "off the cuff" with a GoPro camera, during a volunteer data-collecting mission for conservation organization White Shark Africa.

"I knew immediately that that photo was going to do something," she told TIME. "And even though some people may see the image and think it's terrifying, if 350,000 people can talk about it in one day, at least people are talking and having conversations about these beautiful animals."

While sharks are the object of fascination in our society - resulting in the Discovery Channel's Shark Week and film Sharknado - not every shot of jaws goes viral.

"There are certain themes that are consistent when people are sharing content. Does it resonate on a personal level?" says Mark W Schaefer, Executive Director, Schaefer Marketing Solutions and a marketing faculty member at Rutgers University. "Research shows that people don't normally share content. Whether they're too busy, too lazy, not interested, so there's got to be some special spark on an emotional level to get people to share."

Scott Talan, a professor of communications at American University, explains Brewer's shark picture has all the right ingredients to trend. "When you match and marry the words to the image, in this case, the caption - a New Jersey teacher - with a picture of a Great White Shark, that itself has large potential to attract attention," he says.

"And then once you see the picture, it looks gripping and vivid and different than a lot of other Great White pictures we've seen. You put all those elements together and you have the possibility for something to take off."

Reporting by Micah Luxen

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The 500-year-old poem captivating Reddit

A parrot crossing a zebra crossing

A complex political satire written almost 500 years ago doesn't seem like an obvious candidate for viral success, but its unusual pronunciation has struck a chord online.

The poem, called Speke, Parrot, was written in the sixteenth century by an Englishman named John Skelton. A group of students at a Dutch university set the poem to pictures and asked their professor to read it aloud, pronouncing the words as closely as possible as to the original Middle English. It's almost unintelligible to the untrained ear, but that seems to have been the key to its popularity.

The students uploaded the video to YouTube on Tuesday. Their friend posted a link to the history sub-forum on Reddit - a popular online discussion board - where it took on a life of its own. It has quickly become one of the highest rated posts of all time in that category, with more than 2,000 "upvotes". The video has now been viewed more than 110,000 views on YouTube.

"I was quite surprised myself," says Sebastian Sobecki, professor of Medieval English at the University of Groningen, who voiced the short film. He tells BBC Trending that in the poem Skelton - tutor to English King Henry VIII - satirises a new breed of courtiers, eager to impress King Henry and his policy makers with their fashionable opinions, and language skills newly acquired overseas. That's why he refers to them as "parrots"; you could call them the hipsters of their day.

The conversation on Reddit homes in on the way the poem is pronounced, rather than its political meaning. "It sounds like a medley of Scottish, Dutch, German and English to me," wrote one. "To me it sounds like the Spanish Ambassador from Blackadder," said another.

"They're exclusively focused on how we know what Middle English sounded like," notes Sobecki, who says a huge body of research makes it possible to recreate the sounds with relative accuracy. "It seems that there are a lot of people outside academia who take an interest in that, and that's big news to me."

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Saudi outrage over a female football fan

Saudi female football fans taking a selfie Saudi female football fans at the AFC Champions League semi-final match

A female spectator cheering for a Saudi football team has angered men on social media in the country.

Her team lost, so it's no wonder she was frustrated. Saudi Arabia's Al Hilal were defeated 2-1 by the UAE's Al Ain in the Asian Champions League semi-finals last week. A clip of the match has been viewed almost 400,000 times on YouTube, but it's not the scything tackle on a player from Al Hilal that angered fans commenting on it. Following the tackle, the camera picks out an angry fan of the Saudi team - a woman fully covered in a black abaya and niqab. In Saudi Arabia itself, women are banned from attending football matches, but since the game was taking place in the UAE, this spectator - together with several other women cheering for Saudi, like those pictured above - were able to join their fellow male supporters in the stadium.

Over 900 people have commented on the clip, most of them angry men, critical of the unidentified woman for being in a stadium filled with thousands of men. "Women aren't interested in football, so why go to a stadium to watch a live match?" wrote one. "Does this woman not have a man? Her place is in the house," said another. Many who oppose women being allowed into stadia say it encourages immoral and sinful behaviour. Others say it puts women at risk of being harassed.

Lina Al Maena, a former athlete and advocate for girls' sports in Saudi Arabia, takes issue with the idea that women should stay away to save themselves from harassment. "Women are harassed whether in malls or on the streets, so I don't understand why stadia would be any different," she says, adding "why should I be punished for a man's actions?" She thinks that attitudes may be changing, however. "There's a lot more acceptance of women's involvement in sports today than there used to be a decade ago," she says. Local newspaper reports in Saudi Arabia suggest the government is considering building separate sections in stadia for female spectators.

Reporting by Mai Noman

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The Texan with a big IS Twitter following

Tweet by Jennifer Williams

"You know you're dealing with some serious Islamic hardliners when they blur out your face to protect Islamic modesty… [but] chose to make it blurry rather than to black it out entirely - I suppose they did that so you could still tell that I was a blonde, white American girl. The holy grail of Muslim converts - so to speak."

The blonde white American girl in question - Jennifer Williams, a researcher for the Brookings Institution's Center for Middle East Policy - joined a tongue-in-cheek hashtag movement called #MuslimApologies, and found herself at the centre of attention among members of the Islamic extremist community.

"Last Monday, I had 60 followers on Twitter. Today, I have more than 4,300," Williams wrote in a blog post on Brookings publication Lawfare. "But here's the problem: A healthy number of them are Islamic extremists, including no small number of supporters of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria."

On 24 September, Williams tweeted her #MuslimApology that very briefly shared her own Muslim conversion story.

While Williams says she detests "the twisted interpretations of Islam" espoused by the likes of al-Qaeda and IS ("Can't believe I even have to say that," she tweeted at those who question her motives), many (including some non-Muslim Americans) misunderstood her message.

"Then things took an unexpected turn. My tweet went viral - at last check, it had been retweeted more than 11,300 times - and I soon began to notice a disturbing trend: of the thousands of people who were retweeting and following me, many of them had the black flag of Isis as their Twitter profile photos. Others had pictures of themselves holding swords, standing in front of the black Isis flag. Uh-oh."

Williams points out that many ignore her many tweets that go against the ideology of extremists, including actively try to get the "#No2ISIS" hashtag trending.

Reporting by Micah Luxen

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The 'rich kids of Tehran'

A collage of photos showing young Tehranians

An Instagram account which appears to show Tehran's wealthy young elite living like their counterparts in the West has become a sensation in Iran.

If it wasn't for the Farsi number plates, you'd be forgiven for thinking the account belonged to a rich American living in sun-drenched Los Angeles. But this - apparently - is Tehran, the Iranian capital, where women are forbidden from going uncovered in public places, and alcohol is strictly forbidden.

Rich Kids of Tehran - a play on Rich Kids of Instagram - is a collection of photographs that appears to show the decadent lives of the city's gilded youth. Young women in bikinis lounge by deep blue swimming pools, while the men recline in supercars or slouch in front of tables stacked with liquor. The women seem to be in their private homes and gardens - where going uncovered is not prohibited - and some of the photos are taken in different countries. Many are clearly taken in and around Tehran, however. And while it is impossible to confirm where the alcohol has been photographed, it has been widely reported that drink is available to Iranians with deep pockets.

A hand holding a shot of what appears to be rum, with an expensive looking bracelet on their wrist

The page has been live for a little over three weeks. In that time it has amassed 45,000 followers, and the figure is quickly gathering pace. Although the administrators of the page list an email address, they have not yet responded to our request for an interview. It may well be that the pictures have been lifted from private accounts, and posted against the will of those who took them.

The front page of an Iranian newspaper running the story Iran's Seven O'Clock newspaper showed images from the site

The images have alarmed many in the country, and yesterday one Iranian newspaper ran pictures from the site under the headline: "The hidden lives of the rich." Most of the images are publicly available on what look like genuine Instagram accounts of the individuals in the photos.

It seems they do not fear repercussions from the Iranian authorities, who have been known to pursue other young people for engaging in subversive activities. Seven Iranians were recently issued with suspended sentences for uploading their own version of Pharrell Williams' music video Happy to YouTube.

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Pastor caught with his pants down

Man with jeans down

Listen to or download our podcast.

In the latest show, Anne-Marie Tomchak investigates the trend of shaming clergymen in Kenya after a pastor is caught on camera with his #PantsDown with a woman who isn't his wife. A video of the incident has been watched over 250,000 times on YouTube.

We also find out how the daughter of Hong Kong's Chief Executive enraged people by allegedly writing provocative messages on Facebook about her luxury lifestyle. And we visit a kosher butchers in London to discuss the dangers of online gossip.

The show was produced by India Rakusen.

You can put us in your pocket and listen anytime by downloading our free podcast and we are on BBC World Service radio at 10:30 GMT on Saturdays.

Stopping online gossip

A video warning about the dangers of gossiping online in the Jewish community is being shared widely on social media.

The video highlights the consequences of lashon hara, which means 'evil tongue' in Hebrew. It says: "lashon hara is a gun that can wound a person, lashon hara online is a weapon of mass destruction".

The message is timely, as Jews around the world reflect during Yom Kippur - the festival of atonement.

India Rakusen of BBC Trending reports.

Video journalist: Neil Meads

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Hong Kong's 'Vain Princess' speaks out

Chai Yan Leung, daughter of Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung

After reporting on the rise of Firechat earlier in the week, BBC Trending have been keeping an eye on what's trending in Hong Kong. Here are a handful of the more unusual stories from around the web.

'Vain Princess'

The daughter of Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung has apparently posted a badly-timed rant on her Facebook page. The profile picture - on an account that appears to belong to Chai Yan Leung - attracted some unkind comments about the necklace she was wearing. "This is actually a beautiful necklace bought at Lane Crawford (yes- funded by all you HK taxpayers!! So are all my beautiful shoes and dresses and clutches!! Thank you so much," she said, before suggesting that most of her detractors were "probably unemployed". The account has now been deleted.

The compassionate policeman

A photograph of a member of Hong Kong's riot police washing pepper spray from a protester's eyes has been widely shared on Facebook and Twitter. After being sprayed with the chemical, the demonstrator reportedly asked: "We are unarmed. How can you attack us like that?" Feeling guilty, the policeman apparently took out his water bottle and began rinsing the young man's eyes. According to the Epoch Times, some police officers have resigned because of the way protesters have been treated.

The British academic

It's not surprising that one of the most popular posts on Sina Weibo - China's answer to Twitter - spoke out in favour of the Chinese government. The authorities in Beijing have stepped up their censorship of the platform in recent days. More unusual was that it appears to have been written by a British academic working at a Chinese university. "Western media reports on the Hong Kong issue have been too hypocritical," wrote John Ross. "In 150 years of colonial rule over Hong Kong, the UK never permitted its people to elect the Governor, and the United States didn't protest against the UK about it," he said.

Dissident voices

Despite its wide ranging attempts to censor opposing voices online, some criticism of the Chinese government has slipped through the net. BBC journalist Yuwen Wu has been monitoring the conversation on Sina Weibo, and found a comment string attached to a newspaper article. Tired of the blanket coverage in support of the authorities, one user posted: "Go Hong Kong go! Support the strike action!". "You don't understand what the Hong Kong people are fighting for. You don't understand the feeling of being ignored by the government," said another. The comments still appear to be live.

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The Kenyan pastors being exposed online

A man and woman putting their clothes on. Footage from the news broadcast was posted to YouTube

Footage of a pastor caught with a young woman in a hotel room has caused controversy in Kenya. But who was behind the video, and many others just like it?

The film looks like an episode of Cheaters, the American TV programme in which a television crew tracks down unfaithful partners and catches them red-handed - with the cameras rolling of course.

It was broadcast on a news programme in Kenya, and appears to show Anglican pastor Charles Githinji half dressed in a hotel room with a pretty young woman. Another man, claiming to be the woman's husband, bursts into the room with a television crew in tow. The sheepish pastor scrambles for his clothes, but not before being quizzed by the people behind the camera. A version uploaded to YouTube has been watched 250,000 times, and Kenyans began tweeting about the story using the hashtag #PantsDown. The phrase has appeared more than 2,500 times in the last few days, though not every instance was related to the pastor's story.

It was not an isolated incident. Similar videos on YouTube - all of which appear to expose Kenyan pastors in similar situations - have racked up hundreds of thousands of views.

In Githinji's case, some are convinced that a team of people colluded in an attempt to entrap the pastor, and make money from the footage. "It was stage managed," says Jackson Njeru, a prominent Kenyan blogger who created the controversial Facebook page Deadbeat Kenya. "When I watched the video, something was not adding up. The lady was smiling. She was laughing," he tells BBC Trending. He believes the woman, her "husband" and the television crew were working in collaboration - one of a number of groups that deliberately target pastors and other powerful individuals.

Ruth Nesoba, a BBC journalist based in Kenya, says "apparently what is emerging is a clique of freelance cameramen who are going round looking for these kind of stories." News outlets pay good money for the footage, she adds, as the stories attract wide audiences.

It isn't yet clear whether Githinji's encounter with the woman arose organically, or he was targeted in a sting operation. Either way, Nesoba thinks that for many Kenyans, it isn't the most important question. "People are asking: 'Whether he was lured or not, what is a pastor doing in bed with his pants down with a woman who is not his wife?' "

The Anglican Church in Kenya has now launched an official investigation.

You can hear more on this story, and lots more from the BBC Trending team, by downloading our free podcast.

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Hulk actor's foray into Brazilian politics

The incredible hulk attacking a plane in which Marina Silva is the pilot Images which joked about the incident began circulating on social media

Mark Ruffalo - the Hollywood actor best known for playing the Hulk - has waded into Brazilian politics to endorse a presidential candidate, only to reverse his position the following day.

The Hulk actor isn't a regular pundit on South American electoral races. But on Sunday he chose to join the debate in Brazil, kick-starting an unusual chain of events that played out over social media.

"Marina Silva is probably one of the most interesting and exciting politicians on the world stage today," he said in a YouTube video, endorsing the presidential candidate.

The video touched a nerve with legions of gay rights campaigners in Brazil. They started tweeting Ruffalo urging him not to back a candidate they said did not support gay marriage. "I hope you're just misinformed. Read more about it please," asked one.

Ruffalo soon replied. "Thank you, I am looking into it. I can not support a homophobic," he said, and asked Silva directly on Twitter: "Are you pro marriage equality?"

An aide tweeted back from her account to say that she was, posting a link to her manifesto which pledges support for they gay community. But many of her political opponents chose to keep the conversation going. "Nope," and "NÃO," they tweeted back. Some claimed that they doubted the manifesto reflected her true intentions. The actor's name began trending in Brazil, and has appeared some 20,000 times in the last two days.

Eventually, Ruffalo declared his position. "It has come to my attention that the Brazilian Candidate for President, Marina Silva, may be against gay marriage... It is a little bit murky and unclear presently," he said on his Tumblr blog. "I have to apologise for not doing a better job of vetting this decision." Until Silva clarified her views, he wrote, "my support is null and void."

Silva is one of three leading candidates for the presidency in Sunday's election. Born into a poverty in a small village, she worked on a rubber tree plantation and as a housemaid before making her way into politics. She hopes to usurp the country's current president - Dilma Rousseff - whose incumbent left-wing Workers Party has held power for almost 12 years, but has recently been beset by a string of corruption scandals. Along with Aecio Neves - who leads the centrist PSDB party - all the candidates have signalled their support for gay rights, though doubts remain about whether they will prioritise the issue after the election.

Reporting by Sam Judah and Bruno Garcez

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The debate over 'speaking white'

Nefertiti Menoe

Earlier this month Nefertiti Menoe had had enough of the phrase "You're speaking white." After she saw a meme on Facebook that ridiculed minorities who use proper English, she posted a short video to her own page.

"I don't know why we've gotten to a place where, as a culture, as a race, if you sound as though you have more than a fifth grade education, it's a bad thing," she said. "That really gets under my skin."

Menoe refers to the practice by some minorities of using slang to communicate, and the idea that members of each community, in her case African American, should identify with those same speech patterns.

In an interview with the BBC, Menoe said that when she moved to Long Island, NY, from Kenya, when she was 12, her classmates told her she spoke funny.

"I thought, 'How do I speak funny? Is this not English?' In middle school, I started hearing from my black and minority friends, 'You sound white.' I thought, does that mean black people in America don't speak this way?" Talking it out with her mother, Menoe says she gained the clarity to understand her skin colour wasn't a reason to alter her language.

Nefertiti Menoe Facebook post

"Ridicule of any kind is wrong - including making someone feel bad because they speak properly."

When she posted the video, she says she was amazed when within a day, 70 friends "liked" it and 15 shared it. To date, almost 15,000 have shared her original post, and almost 33,000 have watched the video, on several sites that shared the link.

The reaction is varied. Many, she says, feel she aired her community's "dirty laundry".

@cjadream7 commented on the YouTube video: "For Black kids especially, it might come NATURALLY to say 'dey' instead of 'they'… I still say it myself sometimes, and I have a Masters. That doesn't make me stupid… Does everyone who only speaks English need to speak like news reporters? No."

Facebook screengrab

But many others agreed with Menoe.

On her original Facebook post, Lorenzo Johnson wrote: "English is the only language most of us speak and a lot of us do not do a very good job of it.....and to poke fun or belittle those who take the time to do it correctly shows stupidity and a lack of education......nuff said."

Facebook screengrab

"We're the human race," Menoe told the BBC. "No one is better than another. It's either you speak properly or you don't. Proper speech doesn't belong to the Caucasian race."

Reported by Micah Luxen

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Ebola: The hour America knew

The first Ebola case on US soil was confirmed in Texas on Tuesday night.

BBC Trending looks at what happened on social media in the hour after the news broke.

Produced by Ravin Sampat

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The Iraqis who laugh at Islamic State

Don't be afraid of Islamic State (IS), laugh at them instead - that is the message of an Iraqi sitcom that has aired on TV and been widely shared online.

This is a jihadist online video like no other. A group of crazed IS fighters sits in a circle, while the group's leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi conducts them in song, waving leather whips wildly. The young men have beards and wave around weapons. "We banned smoking cigarettes and displaced all Christians," they sing. "We banned all extra-marital sex, except with jihadist fighters". Each chorus ends with a call for the "executioner" to come and join them.

Of course, this isn't a real scene, and it certainly isn't from one of the disturbing videos posted online by Islamic State itself. It's is the theme music from Dawlat al-Khurafa (Mythical State), a comedy series in Iraq that satirises the jihadist group. The series depicts a dysfunctional country ruled by IS militants. The first episode aired on Saturday on al-Iraqiyya, one of Iraq's main TV channels. Meanwhile, the theme song has become an online hit in Iraq, viewed over 200,000 times on YouTube.

The series, of which there are 30 episodes, was written by Thaer al-Hasnawi, who lives in Baghdad. He says that IS, which is very active on social media, is winning the information war and that Iraqi people are terrified by the significant territorial gains they have made in Iraq since June. So he decided to use humour to reduce the fear that now grips his country. "We are doing this so that children don't go to bed scared of Islamic State," he says. The team behind the comedy series say they are also trying to challenge the jihadists' extreme interpretation of Sunni Islam.

Hundreds of people have commented on the videos online, many of them laughing along with the jokes. But some Sunnis have perceived the series as an attack on them by Iraq's majority Shia community. "Is laughing and goofing around all that Shia can do? Go learn how to be a Muslim first," wrote one YouTube user. But Hasnawi insists they tried not to offend Sunnis. He says they included a moderate Sunni figure in the series to whom other characters come for guidance. He says this was to emphasise that IS did not represent most Sunnis.

In fact, this is not the first Iraqi parody to poke fun of IS. "Dashawi" - a slang term for an IS militant, based on the Arabic acronym for the group, Da'ish - is the name of a very recent TV cartoon series making fun at the group's interpretation of Islam. As US-led airstrikes continue against IS, its social media activity has also been reduced. Twitter has shut down accounts that are thought to be affiliated to the group and fighters have been asked to stop publicising their activities, lest it give away their positions during battles.

Reporting by Mai Noman

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The NFL player penalised for praying

Husain Abdullah kneels in prayer Abdullah missed the entire 2012 NFL season to go on a pilgrimage to Mecca

A Muslim NFL player was penalised after celebrating a touchdown by dropping to his knees in prayer. Many on social media were not at all happy with the call.

After scoring for the Kansas City Chiefs, Husain Abdullah slid on his knees and touched his forehead on the field as a gesture of his Muslim faith. The action drew a flag from an official for breaching the game's "excessive celebration" rule.

The referee's decision quickly prompted a negative reaction from social media users.

"I'm pretty sure the Husain Abdullah just got flagged 15 yards for praying... I don't consider that to be unsportsmanlike," said one Twitter user. "So Husain Abdullah literally just got a 15 yard penalty for being Muslim?" tweeted another.

It was not apparent whether the penalty had been given for bowing in prayer or for sliding when he scored. Officials did not speak to him about it after the game. Abdullah, 29, told the Kansas City Star newspaper that his coach had informed him he had been penalised for sliding. "For me, I just got a little too excited," he said.

The following morning, NFL VP of Football Communications Michael Signora acknowledged the decision had been a mistake, tweeting that Abdullah should not have been penalised.


By that time, however, it was too late to quell the rising outrage. Much was made of Abdullah's devotion to his faith. The player had skipped the entire 2012 season to go on a Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca with his brother, another NFL player. Many tweeters drew a contrast with Tim Tebow, the Christian quarterback noted for kneeling in prayer so often that the practice has become known as "Tebowing".


And indeed Christians who had championed Tebow did the same for Abdullah.

"Fellow Christian #NFL fans, I'm gonna be real disappointed if I don't see you defending Husain Abdullah's right to pray like we did Tebow's," one tweeted.

Others were more facetious. John Fugelsang said: "I'd like to thank Husain Abdullah for proving Muslims think God really cares about football as much as Christians think it."

Reported by Jon Kelly

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The fat debate online

Debating the online Fat Acceptance Movement Debating the online Fat Acceptance Movement

Listen to or download our podcast.

In the latest show, Anne-Marie Tomchak takes a look at the rise of the Fat Acceptance Movement online. She's joined by blogger Jes Baker, who describes herself as "pretty damn fat", and anti obesity activist Meme Roth of the National Campaign Against Obesity.

The programme takes a look at tensions between old and young in China over a bus seat. Also, the reaction online to the UAE's first female fighter pilot joining the battle against Islamic State.

You can put us in your pocket and listen anytime by downloading our free podcast and we are on BBC World Service radio at 10:30 GMT on Saturdays.

The show is presented this week by Anne-Marie Tomchak and produced by India Rakusen.

Hong Kong's 'off-grid' protesters

Images of Hong Kong's protests are being suppressed on the internet in mainland China, and 100,000 people in Hong Kong have joined a new social network that operates "off-the-grid".

In Hong Kong, pro-democracy demonstrators are looking for new ways to communicate.

News about the protests in Hong Kong have been suppressed in mainland China, where the picture sharing site Instagram has been blocked. Messages posted to Sina Weibo, a Chinese microblogging site similar to Twitter, are being blocked in far greater numbers than normal. And on Sunday, rumours reportedly circulated that the authorities in Hong Kong might shut down the city's cellular networks.

In response, a different type of social network has come to the fore. The Firechat app allows smartphone users to talk to one another "off-the-grid", in the absence of a mobile signal or access to the internet. By making use of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, messages are spread in a daisy chain fashion, jumping from one user to the next. The system is particularly effective when large numbers of people are congregated together - like at a music festival, or a political protest.

Micha Benoliel, CEO of Open Garden, the firm that makes the app, tells BBC Trending there has been a huge surge in downloads from Hong Kong, as more than 100,000 new accounts have been created in less than 24 hours. Usage spiked during protests in Taiwan and Iran earlier this year, but never before on this scale, says Benoliel.

A screenshot of the Firechat app Firechat users can post messages anonymously

Inside the app discussions are arranged either according to theme, or how close you are to other users. At one point on Sunday 33,000 people in Hong Kong were using the app at the same time.

Reporting by Sam Judah

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The risk in cheque-shaming bad tippers

Paying by credit card can leave a paper trail

When restaurant patrons pay with credit cards, their names are printed on their receipts.

And when those patrons behave badly - if they are sexist, rude, or leave a too-small gratuity - wait staff looking for retribution have been known to post those receipts online.

There's the African-American Red Lobster waitress who posted a receipt with a racial slur scrawled across it and the bartender who used a receipt to identify a man she says groped her.

One waitress posted to Reddit the receipt of a pastor who declined to leave a customary 18% tip because, "I only give God 10% - why should you get 18[?]"

It's called "cheque shaming" and it's become increasingly common in the age of smart phones and photo sharing.

The practice often results in big clicks - and big consequences.

Post like these tend to trend quickly because they play on some of the best and worst impulses of the online community. People want justice for the wronged servers, but aren't interested in finding out the whole story.

"We definitely have a mob mentality, and that mob mentality online screams 'shoot first, ask questions later'," says Peter Shankman, a customer service consultant who specialises in social media.

But the "impulse decision" to post a receipt has long-lasting consequences, he says.

"It is probably a given that not only are you going to get fired but it's probably going to be pretty hard to get hired again," he says.

"It's very easy to Google your name. It's very easy to see what you posted. And these are the kind of things that, while it might feel great to get five million views shaming someone who didn't leave you a tip, on the flipside, that is going to come back to you."

Red Lobster is being sued by the man identified online as having written the slur - he denies it was him. The bartender has had to face angry accusations from the man she named. And the waitress who posted the pastor's receipt was fired.

The BBC spoke to the owner of a Philadelphia restaurant about why he decided to cheque-shame a customer and what happened once he did.

Filmed and edited by Ilya Shnitser

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Jeter's closing-act hit explodes on Twitter

Derek Jeter celebrates his game-winning hit.

New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter has had many memorable moments in his 20-year career, including five World Series championships. His last home game had an ending worthy of Hollywood.

In the bottom of the ninth inning, with the game tied and a man on base, the 14-time all-star drove in the winning run.

The crowd - many of whom had paid thousands of dollars for their tickets - erupted in jubilation, as did social media, with more than 1.3 million Jeter-related mentions on Twitter in the 24 hours to come.

Though Jeter will be on the roster as a designated hitter for his official last game in Boston, this was the shortstop's final appearance at Yankee Stadium.

According to Russell Scibetti, founding editor of and a Yankees fan, the game illustrated how social media has transformed the way in which Americans experience major sporting events. He says that although he didn't see the play live, he could share in the joy via Twitter.

A tweet from the official New York Yankees handle.

"I was able very shortly afterward to see the video and see what my friends were experiencing," he says. "It made me part of the moment, even if I wasn't part of the immediate moment."

He says social media and sports are a "natural pairing".

"You can share experiences and be able to talk about them with your friends and family faster, in the moment, with a wider reach and better recordkeeping," he says.

Jeter's late-inning heroics also were a boon to Jeter-associated companies. A Nike-inspired hashtag, #Re2pect - a reference to Jeter's uniform number - was also a hit on Twitter Thursday, with more than 600,000 uses.

A tweet from singer Justin Timberlake.

Scibetti says that Nike executives must be quite pleased with how things went. "It would have been great even without that hit in his final game, but the game-winner really made it take off," he adds.

Although Nike enjoyed the hashtag boost, Jeter - often lauded as an old-fashioned player - didn't reap the benefits, as he doesn't even have an official Twitter account. While some athletes share their daily thoughts with hundreds of thousands of followers, even Jeter's retirement announcement - posted on Facebook - felt like a well-crafted press release.

"Jeter is still a fairly closed-door figure," Scibetti says.

That didn't make a difference Thursday night, however. Jeter may not be watching Twitter, but Twitter was definitely watching him.

A tweet from sports commentator Skip Bayless

Reporting by Anthony Zurcher

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The female pilot taking on IS

An Emirati woman has caused a storm on Twitter after joining the military fight against Islamic State (IS).

Mariam al-Mansouri is UAE's first female air force pilot. Her involvement in airstrikes against IS has sparked a contentious debate about the war against the group. It's also led to a discussion about the role of women in conflict. Mai Noman reports.

Produced by Dean Arnett.

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Bike robber finds fame online

The robber's face imposed onto a picture of Argentina's vice president. The robber imposed onto a picture of Argentina's vice president, who some dubbed 'the real thief'

The robber caught threatening a tourist in Argentina has found fame on social media, and is now the subject of a string of parodies.

Earlier this month, Gaston Aguirre was caught on camera trying to rob a Canadian tourist's bag. "The backpack, give me the backpack!", he is heard shouting, while riding a motorbike and brandishing a gun. Footage of the attempted robbery was posted online, turning him into a celebrity on television and social media, and one of the most notorious men in the country.

A Facebook page called "Inspector de mochilas", or "Bagpack inspector", featuring jokes about Aguirre has amassed more than 150,000 likes. And the hashtag #Motochorro, which translates as "thief on a motorbike", has appeared more than 24,000 times on Twitter. There is even an online video game in which the player takes control of a tourist trying to out-pedal a robber on a motorbike.

Many gave the meme a political twist, imposing the robber's face onto a picture of Argentina's vice president Amado Boudou. The politician, also a keen motorcyclist, is currently embroiled in a corruption scandal and has been dubbed "the real thief" by many online.

Some turned the robber into Snake Turley, the criminal from The Simpsons.

A cartoon thug from the Simpsons superimposed onto a photograph of the famous motorbike robbery Images from the robbery have quickly become memes in Argentina

And others swapped his pistol for a bunch of flowers.

The robber holding a bunch of flowers instead of a gun

Explaining his actions on national television, Aguirre said: "It was my son's birthday and I needed some money, that's why I went out to rob. I took my weapon but I wasn't planning on firing it, I just wanted to scare [him]." Reaction to the interview has been far from positive, however, and angered many on social media. "Should the media give the robber so much time on air, so he can present himself as the victim?" asked historian Diego Valenzuela on Twitter. Aguirre has now been arrested, and is facing charges.

Despite the high-profile crime, Argentina remains one of the safest counties in Latin America, with rates of homicide among the lowest in the region.

Reporting by Ignacio de los Reyes

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'Sorry for algebra' say Muslims

The Taj Mahal

Muslims around the world have been posting sarcastic messages on social media, in a bid to counter a wave of hostility towards Islam.

First came #NotInMyName, a hashtag popularised by moderate Muslims to denounce terrorist groups, and their actions. "Al-Qaeda, Taliban, ISIS and 9/11... do not represent me bec my religion doesn't teach hate & murder," read a typical message on Twitter. The hashtag has been used almost 50,000 times in the last week alone, and is still gaining momentum.

The earnest campaign didn't sit easily with everyone, however, and some felt it pandered unnecessarily to the Western media. "I'm tired of seeing Muslims rip themselves apart in apologies to prove their humanity to Islamophobes with campaigns like #notinmyname," said one.

Soon enough, the hashtag's satirical counterpart emerged. On Tuesday #MuslimApologies appeared, and quickly gathered pace. It has been used almost 30,000 times in the last 48 hours.

"Sorry for Algebra, cameras, universities, hospitals, oh and coffee too," wrote one. "I'm so sorry for coffee, cheques, parachutes, chemistry, inoculations, soap, shampoo, cameras," said another, and "I'm sorry it was a Muslim woman, Fatima Muhammad Al-Fihri, that established the world's first university," said a third. They soon spun out into the absurd. "I'm sorry he took his shoes off," and "Sorry for inventing /discovering everything you can't imagine living without," were both retweeted hundreds of times.

The conversation is now growing fastest in French speaking countries. An equivalent hashtag - #LesMusulmansSexcusentPour - has been used more than 5,000 in the last day. Some apologised for the footballer Zinedine Zidane, and others asked "has anyone asked the Christians to apologize for Hitler?"

Al-Khwarizmi An image of Muslim mathematician Al-Khwarizmi was shared by many

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Malkovich artist: Value over viral

John Malkovich as Marilyn Monroe - as painted by Andy Warhol

Sandro Miller's new series of photographs of celebrated actor John Malkovich recreating dozens of iconic images was intended in part as a critique of the vapid Instagram style of photo sharing.

Miller, a critically acclaimed photographer with several books and exhibitions to his name, hoped the project would push back against what he saw as social media's degradation of photography as an art form.

The photos in the series Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich were rendered with tremendous care and attention to detail, and the actor-cum-model immersed himself in the project.

But no sooner had they been released did they go viral, appearing on Buzzfeed and across Facebook and Twitter. Malkovich received more than 20,000 mentions on Twitter over the past three days.

Miller talked to the BBC's Anna Bressanin about why the ability to post photos online threatens his medium and about how he and Malkovich created the images that people couldn't help but share.

Miller's show Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich opens on 7 November at the Catherine Edelman Gallery in Chicago.

Photos copyright Sandro Miller, courtesy of the Catherine Edelman Gallery in Chicago.

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Obama coffee salute criticised

Obama on instagram

Citing a lack of respect for the military, many Americans took to Twitter to condemn President Barack Obama after he appeared to salute Marine Corps guards outside his helicopter while holding a coffee cup in his right hand.

The uproar began after the White House posted a video on Instagram of the president disembarking from Marine One on Tuesday, as he arrived in New York to address the United Nations General Assembly.

As of Wednesday afternoon, 2,740 followers had commented on the post.

On the surface, the debate centred on military etiquette. @Maddogritch pointed out that the president should have moved his coffee to his left hand while saluting with the right.

"These marines protect his life. The least he could do is switch hands."

Others pointed out that as a civilian, the president need not salute a uniformed military service member. Doing so is a recently-adopted practice that started with Ronald Reagan.

An unnamed Reddit contributor and military veteran wrote that while he was not a big fan of the president, he thought Obama was in the clear. "He's already saluting out of uniform. It's a pleasantry similar to saying 'Thanks dude,' that serves the sole purpose of letting the marine know he can cut his salute."

More importantly, as commander-in-chief of the US armed forces, "by military custom, he doesn't owe anybody a damn thing," the veteran wrote.

But beneath the protocol debate was a tired argument with new props, between those who support Obama versus those who don't.

Tweet from Mr Zonkers with photo of George Bush holding a dog while saluting

"These types of incidents tend to flare up and go away," says Frank Newport, editor-in-chief of the Gallup poll. "I'm sure photos of Obama's salute with a Starbucks cup circulated among those who were already anti-Obama, but I can't believe, based on my experience, that it's going to have much impact overall on how people view him and indirectly, on the Democratic candidates."

And while a great many of the 17,000 participants in the Twitter debate were critical of the president, others found it to be a good excuse to post a picture of former President George W Bush awkwardly saluting while trying to keep his grip on his dog.

Reported by Micah Luxen

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Old versus young on China's buses

A man standing in front of a bus

An elderly Chinese man, who claims he was not offered a seat by younger passengers, stood in front of a bus for two hours to stop it moving.

The man was spotted standing in the road and waving his arms in front of the bus in Baoding, a city not far from the capital Beijing. "No-one leaves," he was heard shouting, as he blocked the bus from moving. Whether he had actually been offered a seat on the bus is disputed by eyewitnesses, but the issue appears to be the reason for his tirade. A woman who was travelling with him is reported to have shouted: "College students these days have no character, not a single one of them gave up their seats for us."

Pictures taken by a local resident and uploaded to an online bulletin board have gone viral on Chinese social media. It has been the top trending topic on the Baidu Baoding forum since appearing on Sunday, and the story has attracted more than 5,000 comments on the microblogging site Sina Weibo.

This was not an isolated event. Just two weeks ago, BBC Trending reported on a fight in which several older people attacked a young man on a bus in Wuhan for refusing to give up his seat. Days later, a man in his 70s died after a physical altercation with a youth over exactly the same issue on a bus in Zhengzhou. In response, a group of elderly men staged a demonstration telling their peers that they should be the ones giving up their seats for younger people.

In each case, the online reaction has been vociferous. Far from standing up for the older passengers, most people have voiced anger and irritation with them. "Elderly people have become a nuisance," said one typical comment. "Being polite is up to me. If I don't give you my seat it's because I'm not obliged to," said another.

Theories abound about the reasons for the tension. Many see it as a result of a rapidly ageing population. A third of Chinese will be over 60 by 2050. Others think that there is a specific cultural dimension, arguing that those in their 60s today feel disillusioned with the changes that have taken place in their lifetimes. "They were all Red Guards. Or, at any rate, most of them," says James Palmer, a newspaper editor in Beijing. "They were told that they were special, and the future of China... and then saw everything they believed in stripped away by the time they were in their late 20s or 30s. It's no wonder some of them are grumpy."

A crowd gathered around a bus The police were called, but did not make any arrests

Reporting by Sam Judah

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What happened to #BringBackOurGirls?

In April more than 200 girls were seized from a boarding school in northern Nigeria by Boko Haram fighters.

The incident sparked one of the biggest social media campaigns of the year - under the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls - which called on the authorities to do more to free the girls.

Five months on, the hashtag is still trending, and has now been used more than five million times. BBC Trending looks at how the hashtag has developed over time.

Produced by Greg Brosnan and Ravin Sampat

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The battle to block social media in Iran

President Rouhani President Rouhani's government has clashed with Iran's judiciary over access to social media

Iran's judiciary has given the country's government 30 days to block a string of mobile messaging services, after they were used to publish "crimes" against "Islamic modesty and morals".

The move comes as a blow to Iran's president, Hassan Rouhani, who has so far taken a more liberal stance towards the use of social media in the country. "#Cyberspace should be seen as opportunity," he tweeted in May. And in August he surprised many by tweeting a picture of a female mathematician without a hijab.

His attitude is not shared by everyone in the country, however. Earlier this month 11 people were arrested for sending messages seen as insulting towards, Ayatollah Khomeini.

Local media reports said similar messages had also been sent about current officials in the Iranian government.

The messages appear to have been the final straw for Iran's hardline judiciary. On the weekend Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei - the first deputy of the judiciary - wrote an open letter to Mahmoud Vaezi - Iran's communications minister.

The letter named messaging apps Whatsapp, Viber and Tango as responsible for spreading the messages, and said "a one-month maximum has been provided… for closing and controlling information on the aforementioned social networks".

Mr Mohseni-Ejei wrote that the government's communications ministry had agreed to close the networks three months ago, but had so far refused to take action - hence the new 30 day ultimatum. If the messaging services are not censored within that time, the judiciary would "take the appropriate measures" itself, he wrote. The ministry responded to say it agreed illegal content should be removed, but that closing the networks altogether was another matter.

Iran has a history of monitoring and blocking social media. Youtube, Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus are all blocked in the country, but millions of people use proxy servers to bypass the restrictions.

Reporting by Sam Judah

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Will quitting on TV pay off?

Old and new media came to a head in Alaska this week: a local news reporter presented an edited package on the evening news about the campaign to legalise marijuana, then revealed her identity as the owner of a medical marijuana business.

Then, with the cameras rolling, she quit her job, uttered a profanity, and walked off the set, leaving the anchor stunned and fumbling before a commercial break.

Ethical issues aside, Greene's sign off is having a bigger impact on social media than any local news spot could. More than two million people have seen the video on YouTube. Twenty thousand people have tweeted about it, and it's made headlines across the globe.

But one business consultant wonders if it will have lasting impact.

"Just because something is viral doesn't mean it's paying the bills, and that's a really important point," says Peter Shankman, author of Can We Do That?! Outrageous PR Stunts That Work.

"She might have seven million Facebook views tomorrow, but guess what? No one's buying her stuff, because they're all outside of Alaska," he says.

While Greene's stunt was being discussed on CNN, her Indiegogo fund to raise $5,000 to campaign for Alaska's marijuana legalisation act had barely made it past the halfway mark. She had yet to raise the full amount by the end of the business day on the East Coast.

While the stunt will be the first thing that pops up when someone searches for her online, the Twitter feed for her business, Alaska Cannabis Club, has fewer than 700 followers and its Facebook page has less than 6,000 - that's more than two-thirds fewer than the Facebook page of KTVA, the news station she quit in spectacular fashion.

Charlo Greene twitter feed Despite a day of publicity Greene's Twitter feed stayed below 1000 followers

In the meantime, her immediate community - and her client base - may have questions about credibility.

"I don't think she was thinking long term," Shankman says. "This was a very short term play."

Comments online indicate that the renegade spirit she showed in quitting is appreciated by fans of marijuana culture. Whether that translates to more customers or more votes for pro-pot legislation remains to be seen.

Reported by Kate Dailey

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The abused dog and the online manhunt

A dog being dragged behind a car

Pictures of a dog chained to the back of a car as it is dragged along a road have prompted an outcry on Chinese social media. They triggered a "human flesh search" for the driver, who has now confessed on local television.

The photos were uploaded to Sina Weibo - a microblogging site similar to Twitter - over the weekend. They show a dog tied by a chain to the back of a car which seems to be in motion, on a busy road in Shantou, a city in southern China. Unable to keep pace with the car, the dog is being dragged behind it, and its hind legs appear to be bleeding.

The images provoked a mixture of shock and disgust from many using the site. "This is simply unbelievable. Just what did the dog do wrong that it had to be treated this way?" said one. Others were alarmed that nobody seemed to be helping the animal. "What were those who took pictures videos thinking about? If everyone got out of their cars to stop him, would the dog be abused to death?" said another.

The incident has spawned a "human flesh search" for the person driving the car - an attempt by the online community to track down and expose whoever is responsible. And in this case the controversial practice appears to have been successful. A man's name, address and telephone number have been shared on Sina Weibo, along with calls for people to track him down in real life. It is believed the details were found in conjunction with the car's license plate - information which should only be visible to the authorities, but appears to have been leaked online.

On Monday the driver, identified only as Mr Zheng, appeared on local television to admit responsibility for the incident. He said he wanted to be rid of the dog because it kept biting people. He apologised for his actions and pleaded asked Sina Weibo users not to share any more of his personal information.

An animal rights group that cares for cats and dogs in the Guangdong province has organised a campaign to find the missing dog. Ms Chen, a spokesperson for the group, tells BBC Trending the driver claimed the dog did not die, and was left at the side of the road. "Our volunteers ran to the scene, but found nothing," she says.

Reporting by Sam Judah and Vincent Ni

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Drag queens, Facebook and 'VIP culture'

Drag queen

Listen to, or download, the latest BBC Trending show.

Why are drag queens in America and the UK making noise about Facebook's name policy? It's become an ethical question about identity on social media. We go to Soho to meet some of London's drag queens.

Also in the programme, the air passengers in Pakistan who are fed up with VIP's causing flight delays. A video showing passengers ordering politicians off a flight has trended globally and sparked a debate about 'VIP culture'. We speak to a passenger who was on board as well as one of the politicians who was mobbed.

And, the minute Scotland voted 'No' to independence.

Listen to #BBCtrending radio

Presented by Mukul Devichand and produced by India Rakusen.

We are on BBC World Service radio at 10:30 GMT on Saturdays and you can put us in your pocket and listen anytime by downloading our free podcast.

How to go viral at Fashion Week

A 9 September Tweet from Calvin Klein A Tweet sent from by Calvin Klein was the most reposted during Fashion Week

The clothes may have been the main draw, but it was an undressed Justin Bieber who helped catapult Calvin Klein to the top of the social media heap at New York Fashion Week.

The veteran fashion label's Twitter post on Bieber wearing only his Calvin Klein skivvies during the Fashion Rocks show saw the most retweets, at more than 7,000.

Later at the Calvin Klein runway show, nearly 90 bloggers wrote 494 posts and generated 9.7 million impressions, according to data tracked by fashion blogger directory Fohr Card.

"Calvin had a great fashion week," says Fohr Card co-founder James Nord. "They're having a moment."

According to Nord, influential fashion bloggers responded well to the chunky heels seen on the Calvin Klein runway.

"Everyone's loving that right now," he says. "People are talking about that."

But cool shoes and partially dressed celebrities aren't the only things that can impact a fashion house's status on social media.

Location can play a big part, as shows inside the picturesque Spring Studios saw significantly higher engagement impressions than those of the same calibre in Lincoln Center.

The studio's open feel lent itself to Instagram-ready images, Nord says, which can generate even more online buzz.

Photo of a note; Mummy: Good Luck, We are Very proud, Love David, Brooklyn, Romeo, Cruz and Harper This shot by Victoria Beckham was the most liked Instagram photo of #NYFW

Marc Jacobs also had a strong social media showing at fashion week, drawing more than 13 million online impressions.

Perhaps more importantly, "Marc Jacobs did the best within the fashion influencer community", says Nord, referring to those his company has determined are most responsible for creating future trends.

Other designers drawing a lot of attention on social media over fashion week included Michael Kors, Alexander Wang, Diane Von Furstenburg, Oscar de la Renta and Ralph Lauren.

But, notes Nord, fashion can be notoriously fickle from season to season.

Last year's second-highest social media draw at Fashion Week, Kate Spade, fell nearly two dozen spots in 2014.

Reporting by Debbie Siegelbaum

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The minute Scotland knew

At 6:11am Scotland found out the results of its independence referendum.

The result triggered an outpouring of elation and despair on social media.

Video journalist: Neil Meads

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'The dream is over' for #YesScotland

An Instagram picture reading "When I wake up, well I know I'm gonna be, I'm gonna be the man who wakes up next to you" A play on the Proclaimers' famous song was shared on Instagram

Scotland's "Yes" campaign had led the conversation on social media for months, so defeat saw disappointment trend throughout the night - as did jokes about Alex Salmond.

"Let's not dwell on the distance we've fallen short - let us dwell on the distance we have travelled," Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond posted on Twitter just before 7am today, his message now shared more than 3,000 times. Some of his supporters put more succinctly: "That's it... the dream is over," said one, as the official result was called just after 6am.

In the last 24 hours there has been a deluge of social media activity around the election. On Twitter, more than 2 million messages were posted about the referendum, as well as tens of thousands of public Facebook status updates, many in a final bid to influence voters going to the polls. Almost 85% of the electorate filled polling booths across Scotland, and this picture from Edinburgh was retweeted more than 1,300 times.

A sign reading 'vote' and 'pray' outside polling booth in a church

The loss comes despite the "Yes" campaign dominating the conversation across multiple platforms. In the past two days hashtags relating the pro-independence campaign were mentioned 378,000 times, as against just 138,000 for Better Together. Data released by Facebook this week also showed that independence campaigners had generated more discussion, though the gap was less pronounced.

More than 32,000 images have been uploaded to Instagram using the hashtag #indyref - many coming on the night itself - and providing a steady stream of humour to coincide with the results.

Shortly after the polls closed Irn Bru began trending on Twitter, and was still popular hours later as bleary eyed voters tried to stay awake. "I'm double-handing coffee & Irn-Bru!" said one. The soft drink, which is popular in Scotland, has been mentioned more than 6,500 times on Twitter in the last day.

Graph showing tweets about Irn Bru soaring Tweets about Irn Bru soared as the night went on

At around 4am this image of Alex Salmond emerged showing the SNP leader looking folorn, as early results did not go in his favour. "Sad Salmond", many tweeted, along with the picture.

Alex Salmond in the back of a car Many tweeted this image of the SNP leader along with the phrase 'Sad Salmond'

"Smoked Salmond" declared hundreds more in the hour following the result. Lord Sugar tweeted the phrase to more than 3.5 million followers, adding: "Cameron will be gloating today".

The parody account Angry Salmond, which has played affectionately with the referendum's biggest personality throughout the campaign, simply showed the leader in tears and said: "It's my party and I'll cry if I want to."

A tweet reading "it's my party and I'll cry if I want to" showing a picture of Alex Salmond in tears

Throughout the night, the referendum trended around the world - featuring in the Twitter top ten in Australia, the USA, France and Russia. In both Kuwait and the UAE, a misspelt hashtag has been used by thousands - seemingly unaware of the error. #FreeScoltand has appeared more than 3,500 times in the last day from those two countries alone. "The dream of #FreeScoltand has been DASHED!," said one.

Map of the world showing where people talking about the referendum

The BBC has produced an interactive map showing global discussion around the #indyref hashtag, available here.

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