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20 August 2014 Last updated at 16:55

Saying no to graphic images of Foley

A tweet reading "Instead of spreading the image and video of that horrible act, here's James Wright Foley. Remember him and his work."

Images and videos of James Foley's killing have been circulating on social media, distressing many who see them. A range of voices have emerged calling for positive images and memories to be shared instead.

A video released by the Islamic State jihadist group shows the beheading of the US journalist who went missing in Syria in 2012. The footage has been uploaded to Youtube and Facebook, and screenshots are also being posted on Twitter.

The hashtag #ISISMediaBlackout has been used more than 7,000 times on Twitter, by those denouncing the act of sharing the macabre images. In addition, many are now calling for more positive images and memories to be shared instead.

"Instead of spreading the image and video of that horrible act, here's James Wright Foley. Remember him and his work," said one, sharing the image at the top of this article. The tweet has been shared more than 2,000 times. "Point well made. It's chilling that a beheading can be turned into a spectator sport," read one response. Not everybody agreed with the calls not to share footage of the killing. "The world needs to see the barbarians we are dealing with, I think James would want us to, if not he died in vain!" replied another. Viewed as a whole, however, response to the messages has been overwhelmingly supportive.

A tweet reading "Dear Media, Please avoid sharing any images or videos of journalist James Foley's death- instead lets share this"

Pranaav Jadhav, a journalist based in the US, posted a similar message, with the picture above. "Dear Media, Please avoid sharing any images or videos of journalist James Foley's death- instead lets share this," it read. Speaking to BBC Trending Jadhav says "an argument may surface that it is important to show the real face of ISIS," but that since the group wants to "cause harm by spreading these videos, it is important to take a stand against them."

A tweet reading "Don't let ISIS win.  Remember James Foley in a positive way.  Celebrate his life! "

"Instead of seeking out the beheading video of James Foley, seek out his work, he died in the service of telling stories from dark places," said a fellow journalist. "Share this instead," said another, citing this article that he wrote for the Global Post in the month prior to his capture. Others called for people to watch a talk he gave at Medill University, or a BBC interview, both filmed in 2011.

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Going Gaga for Scottish independence

After over 300 years together, is Scotland in a 'Bad Romance' with the rest of the UK?

That's what Lady Alba thinks. She's become popular on social media after her spoof video about Scotland's independence referendum went viral.

The video re-interprets Lady Gaga's song 'Bad Romance' to poke fun at supporters of a 'No' vote, who want Scotland to remain part of the UK. It has been viewed over 83 thousand times on YouTube.

Anne-Marie Tomchak caught up with Lady Alba during the making of her next video to find out how she's using social media to campaign for a Yes vote.

Produced by Neil Meads.

This is one of a series of BBC Trending reports featuring voices from each side of Scotland's independence referendum debate. Later in the week you can watch how Better Together supporters are using social media.

To hear how the debate is playing out on both sides, listen to the #BBCtrending radio show here.

The 'viral' weapons in Syria's conflict

Image of a text file showing password information Youtube videos explain how to install programmes containing malicious code

Groups of pro-Assad hackers are using social media and the lure of disturbing online videos to hack into the computers of rival groups in Syria.

Last year, the Syrian Electronic Army rose to prominence when they hacked into news websites and Twitter accounts run by the BBC, CBS, and other high profile media organisations.

Now the group appears to be using "social engineering tricks" - offering content that typically goes viral on social media - to install spyware on computers belonging to those who oppose the Assad regime. And they appear to be working. Internet security firm Kaspersky estimates the malicious software has been downloaded around 10,000 times.

One of the tricks involves promoting videos claiming to be of victims injured in recent attacks by the Assad regime. When attempting to download the clips from file sharing sites, rogue software is downloaded as well, which could give hackers access to the computer. If successful, they can record keystrokes, obtain passwords, and record online phone calls. Another piece of bait used is a letter which purports to be between Syrian military units detailing forthcoming chemical attacks.

Part of the letter circulating on social media

Other methods include posting messages on Facebook encouraging users to protect themselves from government attacks by installing "Ammazon Internet Security" software - a fake anti-virus programme designed to compromise the user's machine.

David Emm works for Kaspersky Lab, an internet security firm that produced a report about the attacks. "It's social engineering. It's aimed at people who would be shocked or angered by what's been posted," he tells BBC Trending. Although it is impossible to be certain they are the work of the Syrian Electronic Army, there are clues that suggest they are involved. As well as the nature of the content itself, the spyware is passing information back to a server with an IP address provided by the TARASSUL, as ISP associated with the Syrian government.

Once infiltrated, the machines can be used to collect intelligence, and disrupt opposition networks. Emm says the attacks are likely to become both more prolific and more sophisticated as the conflict continues.

Social networks have played a huge role in the Syrian conflict to date. Government regulated news broadcasts have pushed many people online in a search for more information. Social media has been used for everything from breaking news, to documenting battles, and fundraising for opposition forces.

Reporting by Sam Judah

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Life as a 'little person' in a big city

What is life like for a person with dwarfism, surrounded by people much taller than you?

Jonathan Novick is filmmaker from New York City. He decided to turn the camera on himself, and his documentary highlighting the prejudice he encounters on a daily basis has become a Youtube hit.

Reporting by Greg Brosnan

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Scotland #indyref social media

Selection of images from Anne-Marie Tomchak in Scotland

On 18 September the people of Scotland will vote in a referendum on whether to become independent from the rest of the United Kingdom. Passions are running high and the debate is being played out across social platforms in the shape of songs, hashtags and at times online abuse, or trolling.

Anne-Marie Tomchak travels to the Scottish Highlands to meet Richard Crawford who's running local Facebook pages for the Better Together campaign - which wants Scotland to stay in the UK. In Edinburgh, she meets Lady Alba who's making parody YouTube videos in support of a Yes vote for independence. And in Glasgow, she hears from the people heading up the official social media campaigns - Yes Scotland and Better Together. And helping us cut through all the digital noise is social media expert Mike McGrail.

Produced by Anna Meisel.

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

The Louisville 'Purge' hoax

A poster advertising the so-called 'purge' This image was circulated on Twitter, and similar posters reportedly appeared around Louisville

A teenager who posted a provocative tweet based on an idea from a new film has triggered a deluge of activity on Twitter, and prompted a response from the FBI and local police.

The film, called Purge: Anarchy, depicts a fictional society in which any crime committed within an annual 12 hour window goes unpunished. The premise is that an anarchic splurge will have a calming effect on the populace for the rest of the year.

Early last week, an unidentified teenager borrowed the concept and took to Twitter calling for a real life "purge" in his home town. "Whos [sic] trying to get a Louisville Purge Started With Me?" he posted. Other students, also from the US city, began circulating the message on both Twitter and Facebook. Some included an image of a mocked-up flyer resembling the film's promotional artwork, and slated the event for the night of Friday 15 August. One tweeter even claimed to have seen the image transposed onto posters, and "hung up all over Louisville".

The messages came to the attention of the FBI and local police departments, who said they were taking the threats seriously. High school football games were reportedly cancelled. Many listened live to police radio communication - available online - and the hashtag #louisvillepolicescanner was mentioned more than 100,000 times on Twitter. "I wonder if the #LouisvillePoliceScanner operators know how famous they are tonight. This is their 'rock-star' moment," said one user.

But did the much-hyped event actually lead to a spike in recorded crime? Thankfully, the weekend passed without major incident. There were two fatal shootings on Friday night, but neither could be connected to the hoax. Dwight Mitchell, a Public Information Officer with the Louisville Metro Police Department told BBC Trending: "Luckily nothing was reported that had anything to do with a 'purge'." The police have now tracked the teenager down, and chosen not to press charges after he apologised for his tweet. "One lesson is that people really need to be careful about what they say on social media," said a spokesman for Mayor Greg Fischer.

Now, flyers have been created advertising "purges" in several other US cities as well. The Sheriff's Office of one of the cities in question has released a statement to say it is monitoring the conversation online, but does not currently see it as a legitimate threat.

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Trends of the week - in 60 seconds

What's been trending on social media around the world this week?

From slippers against sexism in Turkey, to the selfies highlighting how the media portrays African-Americans, BBC Trending brings you some of the week's top trends - in 60 seconds.

Produced by Ravin Sampat & India Rakusen

Images courtesy of Getty, AFP, Reuters, Malcolm Shakur West, Lee Raye

You can hear more from the BBC Trending team on BBC World Service every Saturday at 10:30 GMT, and you can subscribe to the free podcast here.

The Iranian president's surprising tweet

Hassan Rouhani's tweet showing Maryam Mirzakhani with and without a hijab

The president of Iran has broken new ground by tweeting a photo of a female mathematician without a hijab. His decision prompted a powerful reaction on social media.

The mathematician in question - Maryam Mirzakhani - is Iranian, and recently became the first woman to win the Fields Medal for her pioneering work in the field. President Rouhani tweeted a message expressing his delight at the news. "Congrats to #MaryamMirzakhani on becoming the first ever woman to win the #FieldsMedal, making us Iranians very proud," he said. The surprise came by way of two pictures he attached to the message. In one half the mathematician appeared wearing a hijab - required by law for women in Iran, and in the other she appeared bare-headed. The image has been retweeted almost 3,000 times, and caused a deluge of comments online.

Many criticised the gesture as hypocritical. "Will you encourage women in Iran to study and be successful like her? Or are you gonna oppress them like always?" said one. "#Iran diaspora so excited abt Prez Rouhani's use of Mirzakhani pics; Silent as women increasingly banned from various fields in universities," said another, referring to a range of restrictions placed the subjects women could study two years ago.

It's been suggested that Rouhani was sending a message to highly qualified Iranian women, in an attempt to reverse the country's "brain drain". The response to the image on the president's alternative Farsi language Twitter account appeared to confirm that. "This will encourage young people in Iran. Don't let them to think that immigration is the only way," said one user. Tens of thousands of women have left the country in recent years to enhance their careers in Europe and North America. Indeed, Mirzakhani herself left the country after completing her undergraduate degree, and is now resident in the US.

Others felt the president was playing it safe. "It's probably to appease both sides... you'd be surprised how many trolls knock Muslim women for not wearing 'proper' attire," said one. Perhaps indicative of the more liberal tendencies of Iranians who use Twitter, very few expressed outrage at the decision.

Despite the president's bold move, the national press did not feel it could follow suit. The Iran Newspaper ran a single - covered - photo of Mirzakhani, and others ran clever crops or illustrations to dodge this issue. Showing uncovered women is a red line in the Iranian media that is rarely crossed, for fear of being accused of insulting the hijab, or promoting anti-Islamic values.

A newspaper front page showing Maryam Mirzakhani wearing a hijab The front page of Thursday's Iran Newspaper

Rouhani has previously suggested he would take a softer line on the Islamic dress code. In July last year he said he opposed a crackdown against women with loose clothing. Earlier this year many women in the country flouted the law, by posting images of themselves without hijabs on Facebook.

Reporting by Sam Judah

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Social media fuels Pakistan protest

Pakistan's political parties have been battling on social media as the country celebrates its Independence Day. The government hoped to promote unity using historic images of independence but an opposition party has used hashtags on Twitter and pages on Facebook to support a protest march calling for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's resignation.

Reporting by Greg Brosnan

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Military tactics in US 'war zone'

Protester facing police

After the shooting of an unarmed black teenager by police in the US state of Missouri, and the violence that followed, questions have arisen about the police reaction.

The shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown sparked often violent protests, looting and rioting across Ferguson, Missouri, over the past three days. Some commentators have now dubbed the suburb "Fergustan" on social media, suggesting the area now resembles a "war zone".

President Barack Obama said on Thursday that there was "no excuse for excessive force" by police, while also condemning violence against officers.

Eyewitnesses say Mr Brown raised his arms in an attempt to surrender before he was shot by an officer, but police say there was a struggle.

As local and county police have taken to the streets to contain the unrest, many have questioned whether their show of force has been too excessive.

Police in Ferguson

In one photo, police officers are responding to the protests in armoured vehicles, initially developed to withstand improvised explosive devices.

Other photos show police wearing army green shirts and camouflage pants, similar to the uniforms of US marines, and carrying guns based on the military-used M4 carbine.

Videos reveals smoke clouds of what appears to be tear gas, inundating empty streets that were at one point filled with protesters.

Vine St. Louis Alderman Antonio French has been documenting the protests in Ferguson on the social media platform, Vine.

Images like these have led many commentators to question how the small suburb of Ferguson could have turned into a "war zone" overnight.

Tweet Twitter users react to photographs and citizen media of police in Ferguson, Missouri.

"Some of the images we're seeing are indiscriminate shows of force - the stopping of people and the pointing guns at people," says Radley Balko, who has written two books on the militarisation of US police.

"This is slowly becoming a default reaction in emergency situations - the only way to stop a situation is an overwhelming force and turning large sections of cities into martial law zones."

Much of the military gear that police departments use is distributed by the Department of Defence at a small cost to police, says Balko. Local police departments only have to pay for the gear's transportation and upkeep.

Author Radley Balko on the militarisation of the police

The police in Ferguson have defended firing tear gas and rubber bullets, saying the crowds refused to disperse and some of the protesters were throwing rocks and firing guns.

At a press conference on Thursday police chief Thomas Jackson said the tactical units would be back on the streets tonight. "It's a powder keg. We all recognise that."

Norm Stamper, the police chief who led the much-criticised police response to the 1999 WTO protests in Seattle, believes there are times when the police need to militarise.

"For active shooter cases, hostage situations, and school shootings and so forth, you had better be ready to respond to all of that. It's irresponsible not to," he says.

But he does not think the disturbances in Ferguson justify it, because this type of force should be used in moderation and with the community in mind.

"That means [having an] open and honest forthright conversation that requires police to recognise their role as peacekeepers and peacemakers, rather than escalating their show of force."

Reporting by Annie P Waldman

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The funny side of exam results day

A scene from Sherlock Holmes with the subtitle "If you love me, don't read it in front of me". This scene from the BBC's Sherlock Holmes television series was shared widely on Twitter

British students are sharing concerns about their A-level exam results on Twitter, in an attempt to stem their anxiety.

The hashtag #ResultsDayQuotes has been used by people anticipating what they will say once their results are known. Some posted pictures and quotes from film and television scenes - featuring iconic moments of despair and despondency - to describe how many may be feeling. The hashtag has been used more than 10,000 times in the last 24 hours, and is still gathering pace.

One tweet shows a scene from the BBC's adaptation of Sherlock Holmes, in which John Watson's wife Mary, played by Amanda Abbington, begs him not to look through a file revealing her past. "If you love me, don't read it in front of me," she asks.

David Schwimmer in Friends with the subtitle "My life is an embarrassment".

Another shows the character Ross from Friends, played by David Schwimmer, saying: "My life is an embarrassment. I should just go live under somebody's stairs."

An image from Toy Story with the caption "Disappointment, disappointment everywhere".

A scene from Toy Story is overlaid with the words, "Disappointment, disappointment everywhere," and another, from animated sitcom Bob's Burgers, shows Tina Belcher lying prostrate saying, "If you need me, I'll be down here on the floor dying."

A cartoon with the caption "If you need me I'll be down here on the floor dying".

"#ResultsDayQuotes Dad, I think the most important thing is that we're all alive and well," tweeted Ben Carthy, an A-level student from Stockport. He is due to get his AS-level results tomorrow - having completed just the first year of his courses - but has friends who will get their final A-level grades. "Quite a lot of them are really nervous, but I don't see the point, there's not a lot they can do now," he tells BBC Trending.

A user called Haroon tweeted: "Are you a doctor yet? Come back when you doctor #ResultsDayQuotes #asianfamily". His younger brother is due to find out if he has gained the grades to qualify for a degree in biomedical science, he tells BBC Trending. Despite the tweet, he offers words of encouragement to his brother, and those like him. "It can never be as bad as you think, and there are always alternative options if you don't get what you want," he says.

Rebecca Iddon works for Meic, a student advocacy service funded by the Welsh government that provides a free, anonymous, helpline for young people. She agrees with Haroon's sentiment, and says staff at Meic often talk to people "about access courses, or alternative degrees that could put them on the same career path". After all, "getting an A* isn't the be all and end all of everything," she adds.

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Adult actress tweets alleged assault

Jon Koppenhaver, aka War Machine A police photograph of Jon Koppenhaver from a 2009 battery arrest

An adult film star is in the hospital, with her ex-boyfriend, a mixed-martial arts combatant, wanted by the police.

It's the kind of story ripe for the tabloids. The tale, however, has unfolded almost entirely on social media - including conflicting stories from those involved, graphic photos and crowd-sourced efforts to help the injured.

In the press, the incident is being cited as a cautionary tale about domestic abuse, sports violence and misogynistic culture.

Details of the story began to surface on Twitter on Saturday, when former Ultimate Fighting Championship participant Jon Koppenhaver, aka War Machine, posted a series of cryptic messages directed at his ex-girlfriend, adult film star Christy Mack.

"@ChristyMack I love you and hope you're OK," he tweets. "I came home early to surprise you and help you set up for your convention. I can't believe what I found and can't believe what happened. All I wanted was to surprise you and help and do something nice ... now this."

On Sunday, he would post more: "I'm not a bad guy, I went to surprise my gf ... and ended up fighting for my life."

He adds that "one day truth will come out".

The truth, or at least Ms Mack's version of it, was posted to her Twitter account on Monday evening, including several graphic hospital-bed photos of injuries the actress says she suffered at the hands of Mr Koppenhaver.

According to Ms Mack, Mr Koppenhaver entered her Las Vegas home unannounced at 02:00 Saturday. She says he assaulted a friend who was visiting, then turned his attention on her, cutting her hair with a blunt knife and severely beating her face and chest.

"I believed I was going to die," she writes. "He has beaten me many times before, but never this badly."

She says she escaped when he went to find a new knife in another room, and a neighbour took her to hospital.

Jon Koppenhaver tweets that "the cops will never give me fair play". Jon Koppenhaver sends a series of tweets on Sunday prior to news of the incident being reported

Since Ms Mack's post was published, it has been retweeted more than 37,000 times. Replies to her message have been a mix of expressions of sympathy and misogynistic barbs.

Meanwhile, the adult film community has rallied around Ms Mack.

Adult actress Kendall Karrson started a Giveforward crowd-sourcing campaign to solicit donations for Ms Mack's medical care. So far it has raised more than $36,000 (£21,500) toward its goal of $100,000, including $10,000 from the owners of the pornographic website Brazzers.

Start Quote

Mixed martial arts has a long-standing domestic violence problem”

End Quote Tracy Clark-Flory Salon

In the mainstream media, commentators have lauded Ms Mack's willingness to come forward with her story and pointed out that Mr Koppenhaver has a history of arrests for violent attacks.

"Domestic abuse is a widely underreported crime and is especially prevalent in the porn industry," writes Cosmopolitan magazine's Frank Kobola. "Mack, a famous porn star with more than 570,000 Twitter followers, is extremely brave to post such an account, which could, sadly, negatively affect her career."

Ms Mack's move, writes Time magazine's Eliana Dockterman, is part of a growing trend among victims of violence to reach out on social media.

"Women and men previously ashamed to tell their stories of domestic violence or rape have used social media to share what happened to them with other survivors or shame their perpetrators," she writes.

She quotes Ruth Glenn of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, who says such public admissions of victimhood can be a double-edged sword, however. While the public can see what happens "behind closed doors", she says, it also could desensitise the viewer.

Christy Mack's Twitter post on her injuries. On Monday evening Christy Mack posts her account of the incident on Twitter, along with graphic photos of her in the hospital

"I would hope that anyone who is experiencing violence would be careful because it does expose them to anything from victim-blaming to escalation of violence from their perpetrator," she adds.

Salon's Tracy Clark-Flory draws a line connecting the Koppenhaver-Mack incident and anti-women violence in US professional sports, as well as the Elliot Rodgers shooting and the pickup-artist subculture.

"Mixed martial arts has a long-standing domestic violence problem," she writes. "This case reveals the sport's link to a brand of toxic masculinity that is evident in the worst examples of current misogyny."

Las Vegas police have issued seven arrest warrants for Mr Koppenhaver, who has not been seen publicly since the incident. Bellator, a martial arts promotion company, announced that it was terminating Mr Koppenhaver's contract.

In addition, Ms Mack is offering a $10,000 reward for information that leads to his capture.

Reporting by Anthony Zurcher

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Schoolboy divides Jewish South Africans

Three boys wearing Palestinian scarves The image led to three online petitions

A Jewish schoolboy from South Africa has posted a photo, and message of support, for Palestinians living in Gaza - highlighting a rift in the country's Jewish community.

Last week, Joshua Broomberg uploaded a picture of himself and two friends to Facebook. All were wearing Palestinian scarves, and it was accompanied by a message reading "Team South Africa… show our opposition to the human rights violations being carried out against the people of Palestine".

The post caused fury in a segment of the country's Jewish community, and over the weekend an online petition had been set up demanding he be punished. Broomberg is deputy head boy and head of the debating team at King David Victory Park, a Jewish school in Johannesburg.

The petition was posted on, and called for his removal from "all leadership positions". It is addressed to the school's headmaster, Gavin Budd, and Rabbi Craig Kacev, head of the South African Board of Jewish Education, to which the school is affiliated. It has attracted more than 2,000 signatures, and a string of comments from Jewish South Africans who were shocked by Broomberg's post.

One commenter, who says he used to be deputy head boy at the same school, said Broomberg's actions were "an absolute insult to my heroes and Israel as a whole," and added, "this is really saddening to see, hope it is dealt with accordingly!"

Soon, however, two rival petitions were created, lobbying the school to stand by Broomberg and his Facebook post. "We oppose the suggested removal of the Deputy Head Boy… and support his leadership & humanitarian qualities," said one, also on and created by a user named Rob Hutchinson, from Johannesburg. Another, entitled "Defend Freedom of Expression in the Jewish Community," was created on and the initial signatories say they are all former pupils at King David Victory Park. The opposing petitions have attracted a combined total of more than 7,000 signatures.

The reaction to Broomberg's case seems to reflect a growing debate among South Africa's Jewish population, estimated to be around 70,000 strong. On Monday, around 500 members of the community marched in Durban to protest against Israel's actions in Gaza. They reportedly sought to distance themselves from local Jewish organisations that showed "blind support" for the military campaign.

Broomberg himself has now responded, taking to Facebook to defend his message. "While I apologise for the hurt we seem to have caused, I do not apologise for standing with Palestine on this issue," he wrote.

For his part, the South African Board of Jewish Education's Rabbi Kacev has dismissed all three of the online campaigns. Speaking to BBC Trending, he explained that the school teaches children about the centrality of the state of Israel, adding: "For many that's a political statement, but for us it isn't. We're not a political organisation".

Reporting by Sam Judah

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Online reaction to Robin Williams' death

Mukul Devichand discusses the reaction to Robin Williams' death

Robin Williams' death has led to a flood of tributes on social media, with the Mrs Doubtfire star dominating eight of the worldwide trends on Twitter at one point.

#RIPRobinWilliams was used over 2.5 million times on Tuesday as those on social media paid tribute to the star, whilst a number of his films including Jumanji, were trending online.

Mukul Devichand of #BBCtrending reports on how the top trends unfolded online.

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#BBCtrending in Istanbul

A view over Istanbul; outside Bilgi University; Yavuz Değirmenci; and a rally for Prime Minister Erdogan. A view over Istanbul; outside Bilgi University; Yavuz Değirmenci; and a rally for Prime Minister Erdogan.

The man just elected as Turkey's President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, once vowed to destroy Twitter - yet he used it to great effect in his campaign. On Friday, BBC Trending went on the road to Istanbul to look at the controversial role of social media in the campaign.

Listen to #BBCtrending in Istanbul

Presenter Mukul Devichand was at Bilgi University in Istanbul to discuss the trends and memes of the elections and the changing voice of social media in Turkey. We spoke to the AK Party's Istanbul branch about the role of social media this time around, and Mukul found out the latest on a blocked Twitter account leaking government information.

We met the creators of a YouTube comedy series set in the slums of Turkey's capital city, Ankara and found out about the digital legacy of the Gezi protests of 2013.

Presented by Mukul Devichand

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

The two faces of Michael Brown

Two pictures of the same person, one in a smart army uniform, another pretending to be a gangster holding a toy gun. Benjamin posted a typical pair of photos using the hashtag #IfTheyGunnedMeDown

The killing of a black teenager by police in a suburb of St Louis, Missouri has sparked looting and riots in the city. Now, black people across the US have taken to Twitter to protest the way he has been portrayed in the media.

Michael Brown in a cap and gown Brown graduating from high school

By posting two pictures of themselves - one in a conventionally positive scenario, and another in a more negative light - hundreds of people have hit back at a form of stereotyping they feel is common in the media.

Michael Brown, 18, was shot and killed on Saturday after a struggle with police, in a predominantly black suburb of St Louis. Riots broke out after a vigil held in his memory the following day.

Initially, a photograph of Brown graduating from high school was reportedly shown by media outlets running the story.

Later, an alternative photo emerged of Brown wearing a sports vest and making a sign with his hand. At a glance, it could be seen as suggestive of gang culture, even if it was simply a light-hearted gesture. It was this image that became popular with media organisations and conservative bloggers, according to criminal defence lawyer CJ Lawrence.

Michael Brown in a sports vest making a sign with his hand Protesters claim this photograph of Brown proved more popular in the media

Lawrence says he was frustrated by what he saw as an attempt to shift blame away from the police, and onto Brown. He posted dual images of himself on Twitter along with the hashtag #IfTheyGunnedMeDown.

In the first, he is seen making a speech at his university graduation alongside guest speaker Bill Clinton. In the second, he is dressed as a rapper in a costume he wore to a Halloween party. The hashtag poses a rhetorical question, he says, "but in reality it's something we ask ourselves every day as African Americans".

A picture of a black man making a graduation speech, and another dressed up as Kanye West The hashtag was created by CJ Lawrence, pictured here

Another set of photos was posted by a journalism student from Maryland, who only wanted to be known by his first name, Benjamin. In the first picture he is seen in his army reserve uniform, and in the second he is dressed as a gangster holding a toy gun. "#IfTheyGunnedMeDown would they use my pic on the left or the right?" his tweet asked. Explaining his rationale to BBC Trending, Benjamin says "I knew it had potential to take off as a major social statement, from Black Twitter to American journalism outlets."

Another example "Would I be labeled an honor grad or a blunt smokah?" asked one user

The hashtag has proved wildly popular and been used more than 100,000 times in the last 24 hours. "#IfTheyGunnedMeDown Tweets should be required reading in every journalism class in America," said one commentator.

Reporting by Sam Judah

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Diner offers prayer discount

Prayer receipt from Mary's Gourmet Diner

A North Carolina diner that offers discounts to praying customers has ignited an internet firestorm across the US.

For the past four years, Mary's Gourmet Restaurant in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, had been surprising customers with a 15% discount if they prayed or meditated before meals.

"It could be anything - just taking a moment to push away the world," says Mary Haglund, the owner. "I never asked anyone who they were praying to - that would be silly. I just recognised it as an act of gratitude."

However, it wasn't until customer Jordan Smith shared her receipt with a Christian radio station on 30 July that the diner and its discount went viral.

"There was no signage anywhere that promoted the prayer discount. We just ordered our food and prayed over it once it arrived," says Smith. "It wasn't until the end when they brought the bill over and it said 15% discount for praying in public."

To Smith's surprise, the post received thousands of likes and shares on Facebook.

"It was fun to watch and see how quickly it got popular," Smith says. "As a Christian, it was exciting to see so many people talk about prayer."

Haglund was bombarded with media attention from across the United States.

"I was pretty overwhelmed," she says. "I'm 61 years old so this internet technology blows my mind. It really makes you take a pause because there's a lot of people paying attention."

However, unbeknownst to her the discount may have been a violation of the Civil Rights Act, which was passed in the 1960s to protect US citizens from racial and religious discrimination.

"As a place of public accommodation, the Civil Rights Act requires the diner to offer goods and services, which we interpret to include discounts, without regard to religion, race, and national origin," says Elizabeth Cavell, a staff attorney at the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

Cavell sent a letter to the diner urging it to withdraw the discount.

"Most people can understand how discriminatory discounts are really unfair to the people that are not included in the preferred group," says Ms Cavell.

After receiving the letter, Haglund immediately stopped it, posting a sign on the front door to inform her patrons of the change.

"I applaud the Civil Rights bill and there was no malintent on our part, so we have discontinued the discount," says Haglund.

Smith regrets that her exposing of the discount led to its demise.

"I understand where Mary's coming from. Financially, she doesn't have the means to go further with the lawsuit or legal action," she said. "It's sad, I wish that it could continue to happen because it's such a unique discount."

Cavell says that discriminatory religious discounts, such as the diner's discount for public prayer, occur more frequently in the United States than one would think. She estimates that her foundation sends out 20 letters a year warning private businesses they are violating the Civil Rights Act.

Reporting by Annie P Waldman

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The president who threatened war on Twitter

President Aliyev President Aliyev posted a flurry of tweets about the conflict

Time was, heads of state would declare war in sombre tones through radio and television broadcasts. But on Thursday, the president of Azerbaijan appeared to make the grave announcement on Twitter instead.

"We are not living in peace, we are living in a state of war. Everyone must know this," President Ilham Aliyev posted, amidst a string of tweets about the violent clashes with Armenia that erupted last week.

The two countries dispute the ownership of Nagorno-Karabakh, a region in south-west Azerbaijan. Although it lies within Azerbaijan's borders, the government does not exercise control in the region, whose population is 90 per cent ethnic Armenian.

The last 10 days have seen the bloodiest fighting for two decades, prompting Mr Aliyev to launch his tirade on the social network. "We will restore our sovereignty. The flag of Azerbaijan will fly in all the occupied territories," he wrote, declaring "we are able to defeat them on the battlefield," soon afterwards.

The novelty of his approach was not lost on his audience, who offered a live commentary on Aliyev's posts. "Shows how far Twitter has come as a diplomatic platform. Now even wars are declared here..." wrote one user. And of course, it left him open to being heckled in real time. "@presidentaz just try :) we will kill you and your soldiers," said one, "Dream big, fail big," said another, and "Go home Ilham, you're drunk," replied a third.

The conflict began around the time of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, of which both Azerbaijan and Armenia were part. An estimated 30,000 people were killed in the six years prior to a ceasefire in 1994. There are now fears that the current disruption could see the return of more intense fighting the region.

Reporting by Sam Judah

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Muddy noodles and Chinese propaganda

Soldiers eating noodles around a bowl of dirty water The offending image was shared widely on Weibo, China's answer to Twitter

This photograph - of a group of soldiers eating instant noodles - was supposed to instil a sense of national pride in China's citizens. Instead, it caused outrage, and has led to a bizarre string of apologies and denials from two state-owned media giants.

The soldiers were part of a rescue team sent to Yunnan province in the wake of Sunday's earthquake, which has claimed more than 600 lives to date. The picture suggests they had to cook their noodles in dirty water.

The image was seized upon by two government-controlled media outlets: Chinese National Radio and the Global Times newspaper. Both ran reports heralding the soldiers' bravery. These men stood tall in the face of adversity, the stories said, with or without clean water.

But few were impressed. Citizens took to Weibo, China's answer to Twitter, to criticise the government for its amateur performance. "Where is taxpayers' money going? What about the huge annual military expenditure?" asked one, dismayed that soldiers were left without the most basic provisions. "If this happened in a democracy, someone would have to resign," said another.

The furore was embarrassing for the Chinese authorities on two levels. First, the military appeared disorganised and overstretched, despite the vast resources at its disposal. And second, part of its great propaganda machine - in the form of two state-owned media outlets - was made to look out of touch.

And the story does not end there. Perhaps worried about the reaction online, the Global Times quickly backtracked, publishing a new story to say the soldiers were actually well stocked with fresh water. By contrast, China National Radio stood by the original tale. Soldiers had indeed eaten the muddy noodles, they said, even claiming their journalists had eaten them too. Within hours, a senior editor from the Global Times issued a statement saying both versions of the story were true - the soldiers had fresh water but chose to eat noodles prepared by locals, who had none.

Whether the soldiers ate the noodles through choice or necessity may never be known. But the episode has posed far greater questions about how the Chinese government spends taxpayers' money, and whether it can continue to control the political narrative in a social media age. On Weibo, the debate rages on.

Reporting by Sam Judah and Vincent Ni

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How to stay alive in Libya

Libyan survival tips

Civilians caught up in the ongoing struggle for control of Libya have started sharing survival tips on Twitter.

Since the 2011 revolution, violence in Libya's two biggest cities Tripoli and Benghazi has become a daily occurrence. There is no effective army to control almost 2,000 armed groups that have sprung up since Colonel Gaddafi was deposed.

Twitter users are now sharing helpful, often poignant, safety tips as there is very little official advice.

Video produced by Paul I. Harris.

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#SexySocialism and the Scottish debate

The two leaders shake hands at the debate

Alex Salmond's televised showdown with Alistair Darling triggered a storm of activity on social media, as each side tried to amplify their arguments online.

The Yes campaign was so keenly aware of the digital debate running alongside the traditional broadcast, that it issued a guide to its supporters on what to say. Entitled "Your guide to the issues in the STV referendum debate", the document asked followers to tweet - and retweet - particular points. Posting that Scotland "is one of the very wealthiest nations on the planet", was encouraged, as was the line that a No vote would lead to "the worst of both worlds".

The catch-all hashtag #ScotDecides has been used more than 140,000 times in the past 24 hours, and was littered with accompanying messages from both camps. Three flashpoints emerged: the most intensely tweeted moments of the debate all occurred during the cross examination stage, when each politician tried to trip the other up.

Anne-Marie Tomchak reports on the reaction on social media.

Jamie Bartlett, from think tank Demos, noted a more unusual hashtag that came into play. Hundreds of tweeters used #SexySocialism, a phrase popularised by the parody account @AngrySalmond, which drew attention throughout the night. The account has achieved a curious feat in both mocking SNP leader's vanity, and displaying affection for his foibles. "I keep walking out from behind the lectern to show off my awesome physique... #SexySocialism," it tweeted, as the real Salmond left his podium to address the studio audience. Of course, Angry Salmond claimed victory at the end of the night. "I won. Obviously", came shortly after "Darling is crying backstage. LOL".

A tweet from a parody twitter account

One of the most shared tweets came from another parody account - @Queen_UK. "This is the worst game show ever," it read, showing the two leaders shaking hands against the gaudy backdrop of the television studio. The humour wasn't limited to spoof accounts, either. The debate was only broadcast in Scotland by STV, and when a deluge of foreign viewers attempted to watch the debate online, the channel's livestream crashed, leaving most outside the country in the dark. "If the STV player is a sign of what infrastructure would be like in an independent Scotland, everyone should definitely vote no," quipped a Telegraph journalist.

A map showing the location of tweets about the debate

This heatmap shows when and where tweets flared up across the globe over the course of the debate - and offers an indication of the accompanying sentiment. As expected the majority of tweets were from Scotland and the rest of the UK, but was discussed across Europe, the US and Asia as well.

Reporting by Sam Judah

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Turkey's Twitter turnaround?

Four months ago Turkey's Prime Minister Erdogan vowed to wipe out Twitter. But now he is seeking election as the President, he's using social media to campaign.

However, that doesn't mean there are no blocks on anti-government Twitter accounts. In fact, under new court orders, an account that tweets against Erdogan with over a million followers has been withheld from view in Turkey.

From Istanbul, Mukul Devichand of #BBCtrending reports on Turkey's social media warfare and the trends making waves ahead of Sunday's vote.

Video journalist Neil Meads.

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The Ebola 'cure' that offers false hope

A message saying a plant can cure Ebola Notes like this are being widely shared on messaging apps

A message declaring that a plant can "cure" Ebola is being widely shared via mobile phone in West Africa - but the claim is not true, and may be offering false hope to those living amidst the outbreak.

"Bitter-Kola has been internationally verified to cure Ebola", reads the note, which is being circulated on messaging apps and other social media. "Pls do not forget to share cheers!!!" it concludes. Bitter-Kola is another name for Garcinia kola - a plant that grows in parts of West Africa and has been used for centuries in folk medicine to treat colds and fevers. Stories suggesting that the plant holds the key to a cure have also been reported in some parts of the African media, raising hopes further still. So where did the idea come from, and how has it taken hold?

Back in 1999, some early stage laboratory tests did indeed show promising signs that a compound from the plant might halt the deadly virus. The tests were widely reported, including in this article on the BBC website. Much of the copy from that 15 year old report has been recently republished in current African news articles. Crucially, the findings were never taken forward into more advanced tests, either on animals or humans, and no drug was ever approved for use. Today, an array of treatments are being investigated, but none involve Garcinia kola.

The story has spread so widely that Nigeria's health minister - Onyebuchi Chukwu - has now made a statement refuting its claims. "As I speak to you now, there is no proof yet of any such fruit. I repeat, there is no proof yet of any fruit," he said, according to the Vanguard news website. The health ministries in Sierra Leone and Liberia have done the same.

Professor David Haymann of Public Health England confirmed to BBC trending that the plant should not be relied upon as a defence against the virus. "It would be wrong to place false hope in a medicine that has not at least been first studied and shown to be effective in animal models," he said.

Garcinia kola Garcinia kola has not been approved as a cure for Ebola

Reporting by Sam Judah

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The mystery Turk gagged on Twitter

An anti-government protester in Turkey The country has seen widespread anti-government protests over the past year

Days before Turkey votes, an anti-government account with almost a million followers has been blocked - but this time, rather than authorities jamming the internet, Twitter itself has closed the account down

Turkey's Presidential elections are only days away, and Recep Tayyip Erdogan - the current Prime Minister - is the front runner. In the middle of it all @fuatavni, a bitterly anti-government anonymous Twitter account, was blocked in Turkey in the early hours of this morning. It's still visible outside the country, but Turkish internet users get a "withheld" message when they try and view the account.

This is an echo of recent history. During Turkey's local elections in March, a court order blocked Twitter for several days. Back then, similar anonymous accounts were tweeting alleged corruption leaks. This time around, it seems the courts were used to close one specific account. Twitter has told BBC Trending that it is complying with a court order to block the account, but supports "free expression", and has filed a legal challenge to get the order lifted.

The exact legal violation by @fuatavni is unclear, but the account - purported to be leaking inside information from Turkish police - recently published details of a series of recent arrests of police officers. On Monday, the account tweeted that more police officers would be arrested and, as predicted, 33 officers had been arrested across Turkey by this morning, according to reports. The arrests of police officers are linked to the last round of corruption leaks.

Who runs the @fuatavni account? There is speculation that followers of US based spiritual leader, Fetullah Gulen, a group who previously supported Prime Minister Erdogan, but now oppose him, are behind it. "It's difficult to say," says Abudulla Bozkurt, Ankara bureau chief for Zaman, a newspaper symapthetic to Gulen's teachings. "We only know that they know a lot and that they are close to people in the government, but we don't know if they are affiliated".

There's a twist: the person behind the account seemed to know it would get blocked, tweeting as much two weeks ago, and even suggesting an alternative account to follow - @fuatavnifuat.

Prime Minister Erdogan remains the favourite to become the new President and is campaigning on Twitter. The new account @fuatavnifuat has since tweeted "you cannot close my account like this. Don't be afraid, be terrified"

Reporting by India Rakusen, Mukul Devichand and Esra Dogramaci

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'I believe you - it's not your fault'

Mary Adkins says the blog is aimed at teenagers who have been sexually assaulted

"I believe you - It's not your fault" is a blog where victims of sexual assault can share their stories.

It was started two weeks ago from a secret Facebook group for women writers. One of them wrote a post about a 12-year-old girl, a friend of her daughter's, who had been the victim of an assault.

"It's cat-calling, it's intimidating stares, it's a man reaching into a car window and just grabbing my boob when I was 16," says Mary Adkins, a New York lawyer.

Seattle-based writer Lindy West wanted to create a blog where women can share their stories of past abuse, hoping to reach that child and others in need of support.

The blog got 3,000 notes and 2,300 followers in the first two weeks. West, the curator of the blog, says she is not posting more than two stories a day, but already has the next two months covered.

Video by Anna Bressanin and Regan Morris

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Jeremy Bowen and the Twitter conspiracy

False image that appeared on Twitter This image featuring a false statement was circulated widely on Twitter

The absence of Jeremy Bowen, the BBC's Middle East editor, from recent news bulletins has spawned a conspiracy theory that has taken on a life of its own on Twitter.

At the end of July, Bowen wrote a piece in the New Statesman about the ongoing crisis in the region. In the article he said he'd seen "no evidence" that Hamas had used Palestinians as human shields. Some days later he disappeared from our screens, and yesterday a rumour began circulating that the BBC had pulled Bowen out of the country in response to a complaint from Israel.

Accompanied by an image featuring Bowen and the BBC logo, tweeters claimed: "Israel complaint [sic] to BBC and said that this was pro-Hamas and BBC immediately pulled him out of Gaza." It isn't clear who created the image, but the correspondent's name has appeared on the social network more than 3,000 times in the last 12 hours. Many retweeted it, or paraphrased its claims.

Others hit back. "Stop retweeting that 'BBC has removed Jeremy Bowen from Gaza' link. Just because someone put it on a jpeg doesn't make it true," tweeted one.

Few spotted Bowen's own explanation, posted on Friday. When asked why he'd stopped tweeting, he replied "because I'm on holiday". This morning, Jonathan Munro, the BBC's head of newsgathering tweeted: "Nonsense that @BowenBBC left Gaza under Israeli pressure. After Syria, Iraq, Israel & Gaza he's on holiday." The BBC later released an official statement to reiterate Munro's words.

BBC Trending can confirm that Jeremy will indeed be back in his usual capacity very soon.

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Vietnam's 'online army'

A man who has been attacked, and is bleeding Nguyen was attacked in May, after posting pro-democracy messages on Facebook

A string of Vietnamese activists have had their Facebook accounts suspended, and claim to have been targeted by an 'online army' sponsored by the government.

When David Nguyen - a human rights lawyer - tried to log in to the site, he found his account had been blocked. He was faced with a message from Facebook which said he was suspected of posting fraudulent personal information. He wasn't the only one. At least 100 users - mostly pro-democracy and human rights campaigners - have faced similar treatment, according to Viet Tan, a political group who oppose the communist government.

Although the blocks have been implemented by Facebook, it isn't the site itself that's to blame. Nguyen says he, and many like him, have been targeted by a rival team of site members - or "opinion shapers" - organised and paid by the government.

If that's the case, then how does their strategy work? When faced with multiple reports that someone is flouting the site rules, Facebook has little option but to suspend and investigate the account in question, and only reactivate it if the member can prove they are who they say they are. So government sponsored users are exploiting the rule, and systematically reporting the accounts of anyone who poses a challenge to the regime. Duy Hoang, a spokesperson for Viet Tan says this "online army" has been in operation for around two years, and earlier this year the government acknowledged its existence.

The difficulty for the campaigners is that many have indeed created accounts using false information, through fear they may be targeted by the government in the real world. Nguyen - whose Facebook account uses his real name - was attacked at a coffee shop in May after posting information about a protest against China. Five men he says were state sponsored security officers smashed a glass over his head three days after uploading the information.

In order to reactivate their accounts, some campaigners have sent confirmation of their real names, and other personal information, to Facebook. They are now far more likely to hold back from commenting freely on the site, says Nguyen.

The human rights lawyer spoke to BBC Trending about the series of suspensions

Facebook has particular significance in Vietnam, where traditional media is entirely controlled by the government. Although the site is officially banned, it is used by around 25 million people in the country. "In a society where there is no free media... Facebook is the new town square," says Hoang. Campaigners use it to organise groups and hold mass discussions.

Neither the Vietnamese government nor Facebook would comment on this specific series of account suspensions. Facebook released a statement reiterating its rule that all members must use their real names.

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Trends of the week - in 60 seconds

What's been trending on social media around the world this week?

From women posting laughing selfies, to the campaign for solidarity with Iraqi Christians, BBC Trending brings you some of the top trends - in 60 seconds.

Produced by Ravin Sampat and Laura Gray

Images courtesy of Getty, AFP, Ece Temelkuran, Hazal Naz Besleyici

You can hear more from the BBC Trending team on BBC World Service every Saturday at 10:30 GMT, and you can subscribe to the free podcast here.

The boy on a beach with an RPG

Young boy firing a rocket propelled grenade on a beach A screengrab of the video that been widely watched and reposted

A video of a young boy firing a rocket propelled grenade (RPG) on a beach has shocked many people. But what's the story behind it?

The young boy looks tiny as he stands on a beach, places an RPG on his shoulder and fires. There's a huge bang and smoke billows all around. All the while two adults look on and encourage him.

It's unclear who the boy or the adults are. The video itself has been posted multiple times. Though it's being widely viewed now, it appears to have been first posted at least as far back as January.

Though some of the postings refer to it as a "Palestinian child firing an RPG on Gaza Beach", it actually appears to be from Libya. The accents in the video are Libyan, and some have suggested it may have been on a beach in the Sirte area.

Libyans have taken to Twitter to voice their condemnation describing the scene as "insane" and a "glimpse of our future".

"Since the revolution almost every household has a gun," says Libyan journalist Hassan Morajea. "I went to one friend's house and his five-and-a-half-year-old brother came out with a pistol in his hand."

During the Libyan civil war people seized weapons held by Muammar Gaddafi and more were imported to support the rebels.

There are believed to be at least 40 major storage houses across the country which are still being looted, as well as a significant black market for guns.

Efforts by the government and NGOs to get people to give up their weapons have largely been unsuccessful.

"Not enough has been done to convince people that if they hand over weapons they will be kept safe. If you have a weapon you don't want to give it to the state because you think it will go to militias," says Morajea.

Libya has been gripped by a wave of violence since the 2011 uprising against Gaddafi.

Although in this video no-one was hurt, Hassan Morajea fears that gun ownership could lead to more deadly outcomes if the government does not act. "People of my country don't seem to understand that these weapons kill. They are not toys."

Reporting by Laura Gray

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Baseball trade prompts Detroit-bashing tweet

Major League Baseball player David Price. Star pitcher David Price is traded from the struggling Tampa Bay Rays to the first-place Detroit Tigers

The 31 July trade deadline can be a trying time for US baseball fans. A favourite team could land key players to help win a championship or throw in the towel for the season by offloading high-priced talent.

It was just such a tale of two cities on Thursday when the Tampa Bay Rays shipped star pitcher David Price to Detroit in a blockbuster deal.

Fans in Detroit were thrilled. Those in Tampa were less than happy.

The local Fox affiliate station expressed its dismay with the following ill-advised tweet to its 40,000 followers:

An image tweeted by Fox 13 Tampa Bay comparing Detroit and Tampa Bay

The image, which was retweeted thousands of times, prompted immediate outcry. While sports rivalry talk between US cities is nothing new, picking on Detroit - which has seen its population plummet and recently had to file for bankruptcy - was seen by many as a low blow.

"Making fun of urban decay and poverty to make a #joke about #sports," writes SBNation's Grant Brisbee. "Very, very classy."

Yahoo Sports's David Brown writes that Detroit's economic hard times makes it an easy target for potshots, but St Petersburg, Florida - where the Rays play - actually has a higher property crime rate.

He adds: "If you've ever actually been to Detroit, and interacted with the people who work and live there, you'd never consider hurting their feelings like this."

Renee Monforton, director of communications at the Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau, told BBC Trending that the Tampa TV station's tweet was disappointing and that Price will be pleasantly surprised when he arrives in the Motor City.

"When we get people to come here, their perception completely changes," she says. "Detroit is a surprising place. If they haven't been here in a while, they really haven't been to Detroit."

Detroit prides itself on being a baseball town. Last year the Tigers drew 3,083,397 fans to their stadium, ranking it sixth in the league in overall attendance. Tampa Bay was dead last, with 1,510,300 tickets sold. That gave the local Detroit Fox station more than enough material for the following rebuttal:

A tweet from Fox 2 News Detroit comparing Tampa Bay and Detroit.

After weathering the uproar, the Fox Tampa station issued an apology and deleted its original tweet.

Reporting by Anthony Zurcher

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The hashtag that almost wasn't

Jenifer Gil and other employees Protesters now take advantage of both old-fashioned signs and digital means of demonstration

#MarketBasket has been trending in the north-eastern US to show support for striking shop workers.

Just a few months ago, however, some protest leaders didn't even know what a hashtag was.

The Boston Globe reports that both the employees and the management at Market Basket, a family-owned grocery currently under fire for releasing its beloved chief executive officer, were not well versed in social media.

The company had email but rarely used it, and did not have a website until after the controversy began this summer.

"When you work in a supermarket, the colleague you need to talk to is never more than a few aisles away," writes the Globe.

Protesters were communicating via flip phones and getting the message out with hand-printed signs until anonymous supporters started a webpage and Facebook group. The Facebook group now has almost 80,000 followers. The #MarketBasket hashtag, as well as the locations of some scheduled protests, have been trending in the Boston area.

The BBC's Kim Gittleson travelled to Boston to report on the standoff between Market Basket's owners and employees that has left shelves empty and customers conflicted.

Read her despatch here.

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The rise of 'We are N'

With Isis militants still in control of Mosul in Iraq, Christians there are facing repression.

The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isis) took control of the city in early June.

Militants have marked Christian houses with the letter "N" in Arabic, to single them out for harsh treatment.

On social media, thousands have taken the symbol and reversed its meaning - using it to express solidarity with Iraqi Christians.

Produced by Alvaro A Ricciardelli and Anne-Marie Tomchak

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Poles eat apples to annoy Putin

Compilation of apple images on Instagram

An apple a day keeps the doctor away. And over the past day there's been a surge of people eating apples in Poland - but not for medical reasons. Poles have been posting images of apples on social media as a way of protesting against Russia.

On Wednesday, Russia announced a ban on some fruit and vegetable imports - including apples - from Poland "for sanitary reasons". Polish food producers say the ban is politically motivated as a response to EU sanctions, a claim Russia denies. In response, Poles have been showing their support for local farmers by campaigning on social media. It started on Twitter when the journalist Grzegorz Nawacki shared an image of himself eating an apple and used the hashtag #jedzjabłka, which means "eat apples".

Tweet by Grzegorz Nawacki

"It's the most hurtful thing that could happen to Polish farmers. Over half of apples produced in Poland annually are exported to Russia." says Nawacki. "I thought the best way to help them would be to start eating more apples and drinking more cider. That way some of the apples will get consumed and people will show solidarity with farmers." The hashtags #jedzjabłka and #EatApples began trending on Twitter and within hours the humble Polish apple had become an internet meme. A Facebook page called Eat Apples to Annoy Putin is gathering some of the most popular parody pictures and has so far been liked almost 17,000 times.

The campaign has made national news headlines in Poland and the country's agriculture minister is among a number of politicians who've joined the campaign. One of the country's largest supermarket chains, POLOmarket, has also been actively endorsing the hashtag on its Facebook and Twitter pages. A special promotion on its website says, "POLOmarket joins the nationwide #jedzjabłka campaign to popularise the consumption of this great national fruit" and it features recipes where apples are a key ingredient. "I didn't expect it to become so big," Nawacki told BBC Trending. "Perhaps consumers realise they can shape and influence the reality."

Anger is growing in Europe over Russia's alleged relationship with Ukrainian rebels. The latest round of EU sanctions on Russia have been described as the toughest since the Cold War. Polish food producers have interpreted Russia's measures on Polish exports as the Kremlin hitting back. There are also reports that Russia may extend restrictions on food imports to the rest of the EU.

Reporting by Anne-Marie Tomchak

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The love story that's captivated Kenya

Sarika Patel and Timothy Khamala smiling

Kenyans on social media have been gripped by a love story between a Kenyan woman of Indian descent, and a man from the Bukusu ethnic group.

Kenyans on Twitter are in a distinctly lovey-dovey mood.

"A village Cinderella story," tweeted one woman. "Love beyond culture, colour, religion... simply amazing."

"This is like a movie. I can't believe what my eyes are seeing," wrote one man. And so it goes on...

Much of the discussion is on the hashtag #MyBukusuDarling, which has now been used more than 8,000 times.

The couple in question are Sarika Patel, 24, and Timothy Khamala, 25 who live in village in the Webuye area, in the west of Kenya. As well as race, there's a class element to their story. Patel is the daughter of a wealthy businessman, while Khamala is from a poor family who live in a simple mud hut.

They first met four years ago while he was washing her father's car. Sarika has just moved in with Khamala and they plan to get married, but her family are said to strongly disapprove.

"These are the kind of stories Kenyans love - they are tired of politics," says Lindah Oguttu, a news anchor at KTN Kenya, the TV station which first reported the story. "It stretches the parameters. It's a no-go zone - Indians do not marry blacks and blacks do not marry Indians," she says.

Start Quote

Why should it be headline news? We are all human beings”

End Quote Rasna Warah Kenyan writer

Oguttu was also the first to use the hashtag #MyBukusuDarling. An hour before the show, a number of senior editors met to discuss the top items on the programme, she says, and decided to create a special hashtag to encourage people to discuss the story. And it clearly worked.

Kenya saw serious inter-ethnic violence after the 2007 election, in which more than 1,000 people were killed. Many have interpreted the couple's love story in this light. "#MyBukusuDarling is a good example of our Kenyan dream. The Kenya we all want to live in. A Kenya of Peace Love and Unity," tweeted Phyllis Kandie, the cabinet secretary for East African Affairs, Commerce and Tourism.

There are no up-to-date figures on how many people in Kenya are of Asian or Indian descent. Some estimates put it at around 100,000 out of an overall population of 42 million.

And some are somewhat nonplussed by the attention the story has got. "What is this obsession inter-racial relationships? Why should it be headline news? We are all human beings," says Rasna Warah, a Kenyan writer of Indian descent who is herself married to black Kenyan. "We have to move beyond the race thing - either you are Kenyan or you are not."

But, it seems, cultural differences may be playing a part in the story of Patel and Khamala. In Kenya, it is traditional for a man to pay dowry to a woman. Among Kenyan Indians, it is the other way around.

According to reports in the Kenyan media, Khamala's family have opted to take the Indian approach - asking Patel's family to pay. Some on social media have criticised this as "greedy" and an "embarrassment" to Bukusu society. One man suggested a compromise: "They should respect each other's cultures, so both should pay dowry."

Reporting by Cordelia Hebblethwaite

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The mysterious woman walking across the US

Some locals have called her a ghost, others have called her a prophet, but regardless of her true identity, a mysterious woman shrouded in black has left Americans spellbound as she travels by foot across the country.

This "woman in black," as she has been named on social media, has walked more than 1,000 miles, acquiring a loyal social media following.

One Facebook page has accumulated nearly 60,000 followers.

So who is the real "woman in black" and why is she walking from Alabama to Virginia?

BBC Trending went to West Virginia to meet the "woman in black".

Video by Annie Waldman and Franz Strasser

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David Duchovny is a national symbol in Russia

Fans of the US television shows "The X Files" and "Californication" know of the actor David Duchovny. But over the last few days, he has acquired a different type of stardom in Russia.

Duchovny took on a role in an advert for a Russian drinks company that celebrated the country's national identity.

With tensions between the US and Russia rising over Ukraine, Duchovny's name is trending in Russia.

Mukul Devichand of BBC Trending reports.

Video produced by Paul Harris.

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Unrepentant, Dawkins angers followers

Richard Dawkins

Bestselling author Richard Dawkins tried to rank types of rape on Twitter - and created a mini-firestorm.

He embraces controversy. His 1976 book, The Selfish Gene, re-examined Darwinian theory. One of his bestselling books is called, simply, The God Delusion. But Richard Dawkins is in the news this week because he wrote about rape on Twitter while trying to explain the nature of a logical argument.

On Tuesday BBC Trending reached him in Oxford and asked if he had anything to say about social media. He was concise on the phone.

"Bye-bye," he said - and hung up. He was more expansive on Twitter.

In a recent tweet, he wrote: "Date rape is bad. Stranger rape at knifepoint is worse." He added: "If you think that's an endorsement of date rape, go away and learn how to think."

Not everybody agreed.

One of his followers, The OSC, wrote: "[R]ape is a legal term, there are no degrees - I think you need to be more careful in your terminology, Richard." Meanwhile Meral Hussein-Ece, a member of the House of Lords, suggested that Dawkins "needs to take a vow of silence."

This kind of thing is nothing new.

Dawkins, shown with blogger Ariane Sherine and the Guardian's Polly Toynbee, in London in 2009 Dawkins, with blogger Ariane Sherine and the Guardian's Polly Toynbee, in London in 2009, likes a good fight

In 2011 an prominent female atheist made a video in which she discussed being propositioned at a secular conference. Dawkins responded in the comments of another blog with a satirical letter addressed to "Muslima".

"Your husband is allowed to beat you, and you'll be stoned to death if you commit adultery," he wrote in the letter. "But stop whining, will you. Think of the suffering your poor American sisters have to put up with."

That was a swipe at American women. He has chosen other targets.

In 2013, he wrote on Twitter: "All the world's Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge. They did great things in the Middle Ages, though."

In the most recent incident, as usual, he stood behind his words - refusing to apologise and mocking his critics.

"What I have learned today is that there are people on Twitter who think in absolutist terms, to an extent I wouldn't have believed possible," he wrote.

It's nice to know that someone as smart as Dawkins is still finding out about the world.

Reporting by Tara McKelvey

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The women having a laugh in Turkey

Hazal Naz Besleyici Hazal Naz Besleyici doesn't want the government telling her whether she can laugh or not

Women across Turkey are posting photos of themselves laughing and smiling on social media. Why?

Women should not laugh in public. So said Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc in a speech on Monday about "moral corruption" in Turkey. "Chastity is so important," he said. "She will not laugh in public."

His comments have prompted a big backlash from women on social media in Turkey, with thousands posting photos of themselves laughing and smiling on Twitter and Instagram. There have been more than 300,000 tweets using the term "kahkaha" - the Turkish word for "laughter" - and on the hashtags "Resist Laughter" (#direnkahkaha) and "Resist Woman" (#direnkadin).

Many suggested the government should focus on issues like rape, domestic violence and the marriage of girls at a young age - rather than women laughing in public.

Ece Temelkuran Ece Temelkuran posted this photo to her Twitter page

"It was an extremely outrageous and conservative statement," says writer and political commentator Ece Temelkuran, who has almost one million followers on Twitter. She was among the first to tweet an image of herself smiling - and encouraged other women to do the same. "My whole timeline was full of women laughing - which was extraordinary, and kind of beautiful," she told BBC Trending.

On Instagram it was a similar story. "I'm free and whether I laugh or not is my decision," says 23-year-old Hazal Naz Besleyici who posted a photo of herself with a broad grin in response to the comments. "They should not interfere in our life," she told BBC Trending.

Many men in Turkey have joined in the criticism of the deputy prime minister. "Oh God, let this be just a joke," tweeted Fatih Portakal, a famous Turkish TV presenter. "If women can't laugh in public, then men should not cry in public," he added - a reference to the deputy prime minister's reputed propensity to shed a tear when listening to speeches by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

A composite image showing women laughing and smiling posted on Instagram Thousands of images have been shared on Instagram

Erdogan himself prompted a similar reaction in Turkey two years ago when he referred to abortion as "murder". Many women posted photos of their stomachs to social media, with the words, "My body, my decision."

The first round of the presidential election is due on 10 August, and among the hundreds of thousands of comments and images about women laughing, was a tweet from one of the contenders challenging Erdogan for the job, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu. Clearly seeing an opportunity to seize the mood, he wrote: "More than anything else, our country needs women to smile and to hear everybody's laughter."

In his speech, the deputy prime minister also called on men not to be "womanisers" and blamed TV shows for encouraging teenagers to become "sex addicts". While the general tide of opinion on social media was damning in response, he did get some support. One man tweeted to say Arinc was simply trying to uphold "moral values" that form "part of Turkish culture".

Reporting by Cordelia Hebblethwaite

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Using social media to fight against Ebola

Gloves and boots used by medical staff treating people with Ebola in Guinea Ebola has spread to Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria

West Africa is in the grip of the world's deadliest outbreak of Ebola, and many in the region are using social media to educate each other on the symptoms and prevention methods.

#FactsOnEbola has been trending in Nigeria, with many sharing ways to prevent contracting the virus. "Symptoms of Ebola typically include: weakness, fever, aches, diarrhoea, vomiting and stomach pain #FactsOnEbola" tweeted one man in Benin City.

"I started #FactsOfEbola this morning after having a conversation about the disease with friends," says Japheth Omojuwa, a Nigerian blogger with over 100,000 Twitter followers. "I have a civic responsibility to serve the public - my followers and my country," he told BBC Trending.

Across Africa, social media is used for campaigning, for example the recent #BringBackOurGirls campaign which highlighted the plight of the girls kidnapped by Boko Haram. But when it comes to a disease, isn't it the role of the authorities to help educate the public? Omojuwa admits he's not a medical expert, but says he's keen to spread as many facts as possible. "I think it's better to bridge the gap between ignorance and information," he says. Since he started the hashtag on Tuesday morning, it's had nearly 2,000 tweets.

Across the border in Ghana, people are scared, says Nana Boakye-Yiadom, a journalist with Accra-based Citi 97.3FM. The radio station started the hashtag #EbolaFacts and is tweeting out information about the effects of Ebola and prevention methods that can be used. That hashtag has also had just over 2,000 tweets. Ghana's Immigration Service has openly admitted that its personnel were "not well-equipped" to deal with the outbreak "let alone be in the position to hold anybody suspected of having the virus".

"The question everybody here is asking is 'What if it comes?' We are not prepared," says Boakye-Yiadom. "We have a huge following online and the perceptions on the street of Ebola are wrong. By tweeting out information we got the hashtag trending and people can now see the information around the disease." His colleague Mawuli Tsikata, who devised the campaign for the radio station says there isn't enough education about Ebola and the situation on the ground is frightening. "Ghanaians are big on social media and so we tapped into that. It's our role to educate the public," he says.

Reporting by Ravin Sampat

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China's 'David Letterman'

The comedian Brother Sway is often described as China's answer to David Letterman.

Based in the US, but originally from Beijing, Brother Sway gets millions of visitors to his blog every week.

He tells #BBCtrending about how social media is changing the nature of comedy in China and breaking boundaries.

And he reacts to the country's latest internet hit, a spoof video poking fun at North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un, which has since been removed from the Chinese site Tencent.

Video journalist Anne-Marie Tomchak

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Meet the 'Women Against Feminism'

Has feminism become unnecessary and irrelevant?

A movement of young women against feminism is growing online. They've been posting selfies on social media in protest against what they say has become a "toxic" movement.

It started on Tumblr, before moving to Twitter and Facebook. There's been a strong reaction from feminists themselves, who say their ideas have been misunderstood.

BBC Trending meets the women involved on both sides.

Video Journalist Greg Brosnan.

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Zayn Malik tweets support for Palestinians

Zayn Malik on stage

One Direction's Zayn Malik is the latest in a series of celebrities to tweet in support of Palestinians - prompting speculation about whether he, like other celebrities, will delete his comment.

Malik usually avoids politics and this tweet was as short as it could be. "#FreePalestine" he tweeted late on Sunday to his 13 million followers. It's been retweeted more than 150,000 times since then. #FreePalestine is one of the biggest hashtags used in relation to current conflict in the Middle East - used more than two million times in the past month. But there's arguably nothing more powerful than celebrity endorsement.

Many welcomed his two-word foray into politics. "One Direction's @ZaynMalik tweets #FreePalestine. Who needs Justin Bieber," was one tweet. "I am so proud of you," wrote another fan.

Zayn Malik's #freepalestine tweet

Many in Israel were not impressed however. "Please tell me this is just a nightmare," tweeted one of around 3,000 people using the specially-created hashtag #ZaynYouHaveFansinIsrael."You always made me smile but now u make me cry!!" tweeted another fan there.

There have also been a few hundred tweets on the hashtag #ThanksZaynFromIsrael - though many of these are sarcastic, rather than supportive. It's reported that he's also received a handful of aggressive and threatening tweets.

Zayn Malik is the latest in a relatively long list of celebrities who have tweeted to express solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza. His tweet is still there. But many others swiftly deleted theirs:

  • Two weeks ago, singer Rihanna tweeted "#FreePalestine" - only to delete the post just minutes later
  • Model Gigi Hadid also reportedly tweeted "#FreeGaza" and then deleted it
  • Basketball star Dwight Howard deleted his "#FreePalestine" tweet, and apologised, saying it was a "mistake". "I have never commented on international politics and never will," he tweeted
  • Amar'e Stoudemire of the New York Knicks reportedly posted an image on Instagram with the words "Pray for Palestine" and went on to delete it
An Instagram post from Amar'e Stoudemire with an image that says "Pray for Palestine" Deleted - but caught in a screengrab

Last week, US actress and singer Selena Gomez posted an image on her Instagram page with the words, "It's about humanity. Pray for Gaza." It prompted a number of insulting comments - "you have a nice place in hell waiting for you," for example - but also 650,000 "likes".

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The mystique of the 'child prodigy'

In recent weeks, 12-year-old Lauren Arrington has become an internet sensation.

Her school project on the invasive lionfish - in which she claimed to have discovered it could survive in fresh water - seemed to stun scientists, who celebrated it as groundbreaking.

But not all scientists were as thrilled with her "discovery", and accusations of plagiarism and academic hijacking soon emerged, as BBC Trending reports.

Video produced by Franz Strasser and Annie Waldman

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Trends of the week - in 60 seconds

What's been trending on social media around the world this week?

From mystery white flags and alien conspiracies, to the #JewsAndArabsRefuseToBeEnemies campaign, BBC Trending brings you some of the top trends - in 60 seconds.

Produced by Ravin Sampat and India Rakusen

Images courtesy of Getty, AFP, Thinkstock, AP

You can hear more from the BBC Trending team on BBC World Service every Saturday at 10:30 GMT, and you can subscribe to the free podcast here.

The man serving life for marijuana

Jeff Mizanskey

Campaigners in the US are calling for the release of a man in Missouri serving a life sentence without parole for a marijuana offence. They are crowdfunding and using the hashtag #FreeJeff.

Jeff Mizanskey has been in prison for almost 21 years. For 20 of those years, no-one outside his friends and family had heard of his case. But in the past months, and weeks in particular, that has started to change.

More than 370,000 people have signed an online petition for his release. And now campaigners are crowdfunding to try to raise $21,000 (£12,000) for him - a symbolic $1,000 for each year he's been inside. They plan to spend the money raised on billboards, and a media campaign to raise awareness of his case.

In 1994 Mizanskey was found guilty of "possession and intent to distribute" cannabis. It was his third offence, and under Missouri's "prior and persistent drug offender" law, he was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

"He's been in prison since right after I was born," says Aaron Malin who's organising the #FreeJeff fundraising, and is director of research at Show-Me Cannabis, which aims to get marijuana legalised in Missouri. "He's never used the internet, or even held a cellphone... He's not familiar with the concept of Twitter - much less a hashtag," he adds.

Jeff Mizanskey

Over the past few years, the laws on marijuana have been relaxed in many parts of the US. It's been decriminalised for medical use in a number of states, and for recreational use in Colorado and the state of Washington. Set against this context, it's a "disturbing irony", says Malin that - barring clemency from the governor of Missouri - Mizanskey will spend the rest of his life in prison.

"It really resonated with people," says Ray Downs, staff reporter with the Riverfront Times, who was the first to write about Jeff Mizanskey's story. "It kind of blew a lot of people's minds... here in Missouri you'd be hard pressed to find people who say 'This guy should be in prison until he dies,'" he says.

Indeed most of those commenting on the story online are supportive of the campaign for Jeff Mizanskey to be released. "This man should NOT be behind bars. He has more than served the time befitting his crime," wrote one woman who donated to the fundraiser. But not everyone agrees. "A drug dealer is a drug dealer no matter the drug. He's right where he belongs," wrote another woman.

The office of the governor of Missouri told BBC Trending they're currently "reviewing the merits of a petition for clemency submitted by Mr Mizanskey". Across the US, there are a number of people serving life sentences for cannabis-related convictions.

Reporting by Cordelia Hebblethwaite

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Sexy selfies in support of IDF

A woman's stomach with the words "I love IDF"

A Facebook campaign has been launched which encourages women to submit sexy selfies to boost the morale of Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers.

The "Standing with IDF" page was launched on Wednesday and now has more than 12,000 likes. It includes dozens of photos of skimpily-dressed women, with "I love IDF" scrawled across their bodies.

The slogan expresses support for the IDF currently engaged in a major offensive against Palestinian militants in Gaza. The conflict has so far cost more than 800 lives, the vast majority Palestinian, and mainly civilians, according to the UN.

While the page has attracted a lot of support, it has also faced accusations of being in bad taste and been branded as "war porn".

"Outside of Israel, the IDF is presented as rough. We wanted a way to make the military look more romantic," the man behind the page, Gavriel Beyo from Tel Aviv, told BBC Trending. "Historically soldiers looked at pictures of women before battle for encouragement and this is a version of that."

Beyo says he has received thousands of photos from women around the world and has even had to ask friends to help with the site because it has become so popular. He also says he's received emails from IDF soldiers thanking him for setting up the page.

 Yafit Duer Yafit Duer's "I love IDF" photo

"I wanted to help make soldiers feel happy at a difficult time and to show a different side of Israel to the world," says Yafit Duer, an Israeli woman who lives outside Tel Aviv who submitted a photo to the site. Duer admits there has been criticism, with some believing the pictures show Israel in a bad light. However, she maintains the reaction to her picture has mainly been positive.

But many have expressed disgust on social media towards the site. "Facebook insanity! Israeli women posting nude to support IDF so disgusting!" tweeted one woman. Others have described the pictures as "war porn" and "patriotic smut". Some are calling for the Facebook site to be taken down.

Reporting by Laura Gray

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Do women need bigger parking spaces?

Special parking spaces for women in China, controversy over water in Detroit and Russians imposing their own sanctions on Western goods. Here are some of the trends we're keeping an eye on.

Female parking space in China

China's female parking spaces

"What takes up 12 parking spaces? 6 women drivers!" This is a sexist joke about the skills of female drivers but it pretty much sums up one of the talking points on Chinese and also international social media right now. A shopping mall in China has sparked controversy after allocating extra wide spaces for women. They're marked out in pink with the message "Ladies Only". They give about 11 inches (28cm) more room than the average space.

There's been a mixed reaction on the Chinese micro blogging site Sina Weibo. Some thought it was a good idea while others found it sexist and disrespectful. "Aren't men and women equal? There's March 8 International Women's Day. There are women's colleges. There are female-only compartments on trains. Now there's a ladies only parking space. Is it really equal?!" wrote one user.

Eat Russian

As the EU plans to widen sanctions against Russia, a hashtag which translates as #EatRussian is trending there. Western leaders have accused Russia of arming rebels in eastern Ukraine, and these groups are widely being linked to the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17. Russian social media users have responded to the prospect of fresh sanctions by urging people to eat home produce and avoid food from the West. "Down with Cola and burgers!" wrote one Twitter user. "I'm gonna have some borscht :)" tweeted another, despite the dish being originally from Ukraine.

Tweet from Russian about sanctions
Detroit water crisis

Water is trending in Detroit as the US city grapples with $89m (£52m) in overdue water bills. Last week those behind in paying their bills had their supply cut off. Officials have since put the action on hold to give customers time to come forward and prove they genuinely can't pay. The hashtag #DetroitWater was used more than 17,000 times in the past week. The internet is also being used to solve the problem. A new crowdfunding project called Turn on Detroit's Water matches those struggling to pay with donors who want to help.

What do you think about the idea of special parking spaces for women? Tweet us @BBCtrending. All our stories are at

Reporting by Anne-Marie Tomchak

Criticising Israel, avoiding anti-Semitism

A screengrab of the blog "How to criticise Israel without being anti-Semitic"

"How to criticise Israel without being anti-Semitic" - that's the title of a blog post that's being widely shared as the death toll in Gaza rises.

The blog begins like this: "If you've spent any time discussing or reading about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I guarantee you've heard some variation of this statement: OMG, Jews think any criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic!"

It includes 19 "tips" for anyone who wants to criticise Israel - mainly advice on what to avoid. For example: "Don't say 'the Jews' when you mean Israel," or "Don't say: 'I can't be anti-Semitic, I have Jewish friends!'" It warns against stereotypes, and "expansive language" - such as referring to Israelis as "bloodthirsty". The post also includes detailed discussion of the meaning of the word "Zionist" and much more.

It's been shared particularly widely in the past day or so, with many referring to Gaza and Israel. It's had more than 8,000 "notes" on Tumblr, and has been shared tens of thousands of times on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and elsewhere. But - though there's no date stamp on the blog - it's clear (from the date of some of the shares) that it was written well over a year ago. In short - as is quite common on social media - it's looped round and made a comeback.

The top countries sharing the blog on Twitter appear to be the US, the UK and Sweden. "100% required reading," was one comment. "So important right now," was another. Interestingly, it's not made much of an impact on social media in Israel. One of the few commenting there wrote: "If you're gonna be a liberal douche bag, here's 'How to criticize Israel Without Being Anti-Semitic."

There is no name on the Tumblr, and the author has - as yet - not responded to our request for an interview. From other posts on the blog, it's clear the blogger is an American convert to Judaism.

The blog also includes a counterpoint post, "How to Support Israel Without Being Racist", with a similar list of points to avoid. "Don't call Palestinians 'animals' or 'savages'," and "Don't say 'Arab' when you mean Palestinian," for example. It concludes: "If you expect Palestinians and their allies not to be anti-Semitic, you'd better extend the same courtesy and not be racist."

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Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies

As millions go online to share information about the Gaza conflict, a social media campaign calling for tolerance is building.

Jews and Arabs around the world have been sharing loving images of coexistence and using the hashtag #JewsAndArabsRefuseToBeEnemies in an effort to change the discourse online.

BBC Trending meets the people behind the campaign.

Produced by Anne-Marie Tomchak and Neil Meads

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10 theories about the Brooklyn Bridge flags

A bleached US flag flies over the Brooklyn Bridge.

When New Yorkers woke on Tuesday morning they were greeted by the sight of two large white flags in place of the stars and stripes that normally fly over the landmark Brooklyn Bridge.

The news quickly became a national story, with more than 30,000 bridge-related posts on Twitter speculating about the meaning of the act and the parties responsible.

Much of the chatter was humorous, but one joke didn't end up that way. The Twitter account @BicycleLobby sent out: "Earlier today we hoisted two white flags to signal our complete surrender of the Brooklyn Bridge bicycle path to pedestrians."

The Associated Press and the New York Daily News picked up the story and reported it as a legitimate claim of responsibility, despite the fact that the tweeter's bio said it was a parody account. As the message received widespread coverage, @BicycleLobby tweeted: "If you believe we're for real, we have a bridge in Brooklyn we'd like to sell you."

On Wednesday morning, speculation centred on the Instagram user Last Suspect, who according to the New York website Gothamist, posted images of bleached white flags and photos taken underneath the Brooklyn Bridge, along with now-deleted comments insinuating involvement in the plot.

Finger of blame

(according to Twitter)

1) Hipsters

2) Anti-hipsters

3) Bicyclists

4) Gentrifiers

5) Jasper Johns

6) Triumphant Brooklynites

7) Humble Manhattanites

8) Surrendering French

9) Starbucks

10) Aliens? Yes, definitely aliens


Much of the theorising has focused on the white flag as a symbol of surrender. The words "Brooklyn" and "surrender" have been used together several thousand times on Twitter since the story broke.

But who was surrendering to whom?

It could have something to do with the oh-so-cool reputation of Brooklyn neighbourhoods. Among the possible theories were:

Hipsters protesting against the opening of a Starbucks in their midst.


Brooklyn surrendering to "gentrifiers & trustfund hipsters".

Manhattan surrendering to the now trendier Brooklyn.

Others thought the whiteness of the flag was just a red herring.

Ben Williams tweets this could be the work of a famous flag-obsessed modern artist: "Looks like Jasper Johns has been climbing the Brooklyn Bridge."

And of course, no collection of internet theorising would be complete without someone raising the prospect of alien involvement.

New York Police officers climb the Brooklyn Bridge. The New York Police Department removed the offending flags and promises a full investigation

Politics crept into the conversation, as well.

"Today they put a white flag over Brooklyn Bridge," @FearDept tweeted. "Tomorrow we must prove them wrong - prove we don't surrender - by ordering new drone strikes."

Others took the opportunity to engage in a little egregious France-bashing.

And then there were those who decried the extensive media coverage of the flag incident when there were more serious matters going on in the world.

"Death and destruction in Gaza, Russia's invading Ukraine, but thank god the media is all over a couple of white flags on the Brooklyn Bridge," tweeted Eric Fastner.

New York police agree that this isn't a laughing matter and say they are conducting a full investigation.

Seven years ago, Boston was paralysed by an ill-advised viral-marketing campaign for a television show after police and city residents mistook "light-up" placards placed in public spaces for improvised explosive devices.

Although the white-flag incident hasn't prompted the same level of panic, 13 years after the 9/11 attacks on Manhattan, the response shows some New York nerves are still a little raw.

"Could this be a shot across the bow, letting the American public know just how vulnerable we still are?" writes Jennifer Van Laar of IJReview.

"This time it was a flag," blared the New York Daily News headline, "next time it could be a bomb."

Reporting by Anthony Zurcher

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Video teasing North Korean leader goes viral

A screengrab from the "Fat guy Number 3" video showing Kim Jong-un in a small fairground airplane The video has been watched millions of times on Chinese social media sites and on YouTube

A mash-up video poking fun at the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has been watched millions of times in China and around the world.

The video is cheekily named "Fat Guy Number 3" - a reference to the Kim family's supposed portliness - and, for three-and-half-minutes, it teases, and pokes fun at the North Korean leader (you can watch the video here).

It's made up of a series of animated GIFs in which Kim Jong-un's face is superimposed on all sorts of existing images. He's shown dancing, doing the splits, as a ballet dancer, with his trousers down, riding on the back of a pig - and many a surreal scenario in between. It's set to a catchy recent Chinese hit love song, Little Apple, by the Chopstick Brothers - which has been parodied a number of times, as well as being used in flash mobs in China.

A host of international leaders (or at least their superimposed heads) make appearances in the video too. US President Barack Obama is seen generally frolicking around in a light-hearted way. Russia's President Putin and the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also feature.

A screengrab from the "Fat guy Number 3" video showing Kim Jong-un dancing with US President Barack Obama President Obama and Kim Jong-un are shown dancing together in a number of scenes

The video appears to have been made by a Chinese man with 190,000 followers on Weibo - China's version of Twitter - who's been making Kim Jong-un GIFs for two years. Writing on his Weibo page, he said the video was "just for entertainment" and had no deeper political message. It was uploaded to the Chinese video-sharing site Tencent, where it's been watched more than 55 million times. YouTube is banned in China, but the video was later copied and uploaded there, and prompted a million views and comments from around the world. "Brilliant piece of mashup satire," wrote one person. "We, the people of China love this video, make part 2!" wrote another.

"It was very funny!" agrees Steve Tsang, head of the School of Contemporary Chinese Studies at the University of Nottingham. In general, he says, Chinese people see Kim Jong-un as "a cuddly, ridiculous man". That's in clear contrast to the official Chinese government line - though there are signs that support is weakening. "The Chinese government is always supportive of North Korea if the chips come down, but they are also fed up with the North Koreans," says Tsang.

A screengrab from the "Fat guy Number 3" video showing Kim Jong-un being hit on his backside by a missile Kim Jong-un's missile tests also come in for scrutiny in the mash-up video

Though the man who made it insists the video is not political, there are some scenes which appear to carry a message. In one, Kim Jong-un is seen holding Osama bin Laden's hand. In another, a missile he fires ends up hitting him on his own backside.

Reporting by Cordelia Hebblethwaite and Vincent Ni

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The six-year hair pulling selfie

A selfie project documenting a young woman's battle with a hair-pulling disorder has been watched over five million times on YouTube.

21-year-old Rebecca Brown from Essex took a photo of herself every day for six years to show how she'd been affected by trichotillomania - a condition which leaves a person feeling compelled to pull their hair out.

Brown has been on YouTube since 2007 and has almost 200,000 subscribers on her channels. She tells BBC Trending about how she uses social media to cope.

Produced by Anne-Marie Tomchak and Neil Meads.

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Dutch use black avatars in MH17 protest

A black rectangle Thousands have changed their profile picture to a black square

Many people in the Netherlands have changed their social media profile picture to a black square and are using the hashtag #BringThemHome.

Right across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, people have swapped their standard - often smiling - profile image to a black square. One-hundred-and ninety-three Dutch people were among the 298 people on board the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 when it crashed in Ukraine on Thursday. Many in the Netherlands are combining the gesture with a call for their fellow citizens' bodies to be repatriated as soon as possible.

The trend seems to have started on Facebook. The Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans was among the first to change his cover image on Facebook to a black background. Many friends and relatives changed their avatar to a black square.

The trend spread to Twitter and here it began to be used in combination with the hashtag #BringThemHome, which has been tweeted more than 7,000 times since the crash. "Last night, there was a big snowball effect where everybody started to put their avatar on black to express their grief," says Remco Janssen, a Dutch social media expert based in Amsterdam. Many feel the government in the Netherlands is not doing enough to get them back, he says.

A screengrab of eight Instagram profile picture on the hashtag #BringThemHome A black ribbon is also being used by some on Instagram and elsewhere

The hashtag has also been used in Australia, Canada, the UK and the US - all countries which lost citizens in the crash. In Australia, many shared the front page of the Sunday Times which ran with the headline "Bring Them Home".

But the hashtag is most widespread in the Netherlands, with its relatively small population of 16 million. "If you do the math, and six degrees of separation, everybody knows somebody who knows at least one person who was in the crash," says Janssen. "We all know somebody who was on the plane. So it's really heartfelt. Some people even said that this was our 9/11."

It's quite common for people to change their social media avatars to raise the profile of a cause, or to express grief. After Typhoon Haiyan, for example, many in the Philippines, changed their profile pictures to a black map of the country.

Janssen says he doesn't expect the hashtag, or the black avatars, to have much concrete effect. But he does believe that social media can help, in its own way, at a time like this. "Social media is like the village square... I think it has a big psychological effect on everybody to have this place to discuss - it feels like a place where everybody has a sense of joint grief."

Reporting by Cordelia Hebblethwaite

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The problem with sex education in India

India's new Health Minister has provoked outrage after declaring that so-called sex education should be banned.

Dr Harsh Vardhan has said his remarks were taken out of context, but it's inspired a group of satirists to made a spoof video about the standard of sex education in the country. The video has been watched over a million times on YouTube.

India has the world's largest population of young people aged between 10 and 19 - a total of about 243 million.

Anne-Marie Tomchak of BBC trending reports.

Video Journalist Paul Harris.

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About BBC Trending

A hand-picked selection of stories trending on social media around the world. Includes posts on the Magazine's Trending blog, twice weekly videos via @BBCWorld and a weekly radio programme on Saturday on BBC World Service.

Follow @BBCtrending on Twitter and tweet using #BBCtrending


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