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BBC

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Episodes

We were promised a baby on Instagram

8/23/2019
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When it became clear Samantha couldn’t give birth to her own children, she and her husband decided to look on social media for pregnant women who wanted to give their babies up for adoption. They got a message from a young woman, who said she was heavily pregnant and wanted them to adopt her child. The couple couldn’t believe their luck. But what followed was more than a month of emotional turmoil. They had fallen prey to a scammer who had promised babies to lots of couples she found on...

Duration:00:22:43

Facebook’s market for illicit antiquities

8/16/2019
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War-torn countries are having their cultural heritage destroyed with antiquities being looted and sold to generate money. In some cases, the plunder may constitute a war crime. Instability in countries like Syria means some people are taking desperate measures to survive, but some looters have connections to criminal gangs, the Syrian government and terrorist organisations. How has this trade moved online and what is being done to prevent the destruction of cultural heritage? We examine the...

Duration:00:24:01

The people who want humans to stop having babies

8/9/2019
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Have you ever wondered what would happen to humanity if we all stopped having babies? The extinction of the human race may be a scary thought to most of us, but not for the “anti-natalists”. They’re a thriving online community based on Facebook and Reddit that firmly believes human life only brings suffering and should therefore come to an end. While some entertain the idea on a purely philosophical level, others say reducing the number of people on Earth is an imperative to combat climate...

Duration:00:23:04

Can YouTube be trusted?

8/2/2019
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YouTube has been criticised for failing to take responsibility for videos posted on the platform. So can it be trusted to control potentially harmful content? The video-sharing site is just 14, but there's no doubt it has become a giant of global communication. According to the company's own figures, it has more than a billion users around the globe, watching more than a billion hours of videos every day. At the same time as it has grown phenomenally popular, however, YouTube has also been...

Duration:00:25:32

What happens after you go viral?

7/26/2019
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Two stories about viral stories that kicked off deep debate about social issues. What happened when social media moved on? Randa Jarrar, a university professor, tweeted a provocative – and many would say deeply offensive – message after the death of former US First Lady Barbara Bush. It went viral and hit a nerve in a country riveted by debates over free speech and its limits, especially on college campuses. And you may remember the story of the jogger who was caught on video throwing a...

Duration:00:23:46

How influential is a pro-Trump conspiracy theory?

7/19/2019
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What does the QAnon conspiracy theory tell us about American politics today? It’s a sprawling set of allegations which has a number of branches and offshoots –but if one thing unites its believers, it’s that they all support President Trump. We meet Dylan Wheeler, an influencer with more than 370,000 followers on Twitter, as he speaks at a gathering of Trump supporters. Although the people in the crowd aren’t all conspiracy theorists, some of them aren’t exactly opposed to such ideas. We...

Duration:00:23:34

Is YouTube to blame for the rise of flat Earth?

7/12/2019
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Many people who believe the Earth is not round first heard the idea on YouTube. While it’s hard to accurately say how many flat Earthers there are worldwide, it is undeniable that their community has grown in recent years. Flat Earth meet-ups and conventions have popped up in a number of countries, while online searches for the topic have reached unprecedented levels. YouTube hosts thousands of flat Earth videos, some with millions of views. And when you ask flat Earth conspiracy theorists...

Duration:00:24:32

The Emirati women fleeing their faith and family

7/5/2019
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Growing up, Dina – not her real name – would browse social media and imagine a life far from the one she was living. She felt shackled by the rules imposed on her by her parents, religion and the culture of the United Arab Emirates. So one day she escaped, using social media to navigate through networks of people and ex-Muslim communities, to get to the West. Several recent high-profile cases of Emirati women leaving the country have been in the news recently. But Dina’s story is more...

Duration:00:22:23

How scammers took advantage of #BlueForSudan

6/28/2019
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After a Sudanese protester was killed, there was a wave of sympathy on social media – but scammers took advantage. In early June, 26-year-old activist Mohamed Mattar was shot and killed in Khartoum. He was one of 100 protesters who died in a government crackdown on a sit-in. Blue was his favourite colour, and at the time of his death, the avatar on his social media pages displayed a deep shade similar to the colour of the ocean. Some of Mohamed’s friends and family changed their avatars to...

Duration:00:24:01

The man who kick-started the Egyptian revolution

6/21/2019
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It was a moment that defined online activism. When tens of thousands of people came out to Cairo’s Tahrir Square to demand the end of the rule of Hosni Mubarak in January 2011, they weren’t responding to a political party or a leafleting campaign – but instead to a Facebook page. It was called “We are all Khaled Said” - in honour of a 28-year-old man who was tortured to death by Egyptian police. It was the moment when the world woke up to the true political power of social media. Wael Ghonim...

Duration:00:24:11

The 23-year-old fixing the world of online debate

6/14/2019
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Online debate is broken – full of angry shouting and mindless agreement. And that’s even before you get to the trolls, lies, misinformation, and fake news. This week we visit Inverness, in the Highlands of Scotland, to meet a man with a plan to fix this problem. Six years ago, when he was a curious, guitar-playing student, Kal Turnbull started a subreddit – a section of the website Reddit - called Change My View. He encouraged people to post their opinions and invite other users to politely...

Duration:00:26:57

The volunteers fighting hate on Facebook

6/7/2019
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Nina spends three hours a day on Facebook – not sharing selfies or catching up on news, but trying to make the network a nicer place. She’s a German member of a large and growing international movement called #IAmHere. Started in Sweden in 2016, tens of thousands of volunteers in more than a dozen countries organise in closed Facebook groups. They target popular posts, often from mainstream news organisations, which get overrun by extremism, violent threats and hate speech. Their goal is to...

Duration:00:22:17

When threatening private messages go public

5/31/2019
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They were meant to be private, and the people posting them considered them “jokes”. But when female students at the University of Warwick found out about hundreds of violent and obscene messages – some of them directly naming themselves and their friends - they were horrified and scared. We heard from the women who were named in the group chat, and who alleged that a later university investigation fell short of their expectations. The messages came from closed social media groups – and it...

Duration:00:23:45

How YouTube decides what you should watch

5/24/2019
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Why are there so many conspiracy videos on YouTube? The company has clamped down on extremist and dangerous content, but conspiracies, outright fakes, and hoaxes are still very easy to find. Sometimes they’re only watched by a few people, but often these videos go viral. The reason why they so often pop up on your screen, says former Google employee Guillaume Chaslot, is YouTube’s algorithm. Chaslot was one of the engineers who helped shape the YouTube recommendation engine, the mechanism...

Duration:00:22:47

Is Russia trying to sway the European elections?

5/17/2019
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Officials in Brussels are worried. With the elections for the European Parliament rapidly approaching, they say Russia is using disinformation and fake news to sow discord and to undermine people's trust in the European Union. Moscow flatly denies such accusations. But EU officials say Russian disinformation could help anti-EU parties and movements. And, if you were to believe the polls, populist and Eurosceptic parties are indeed likely to increase their number of seats. While the EU talks...

Duration:00:24:01

What’s boosting the ‘Brazilian Butt Lift’?

5/10/2019
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It’s a dangerous cosmetic surgical procedure that’s all over social media. About one in every 3,000 women who undergo a Brazilian Butt Lift - or BBL - will die, but the stark statistics haven’t stopped its popularity. In the United States, for instance, the number of BBLs has doubled in just a few years. Fuelling the trend are social media photos and influencers who show off their hourglass shapes – including big breasts, tiny waists, and a big bottom. It’s a particularly prized body type in...

Duration:00:23:20

How to survive the digital age

5/3/2019
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Where did it all go wrong? The liberating promise of the internet and social media has recently been swamped by worries about privacy, misinformation and online radicalisation. Now that doubts about our digital technologies are all over the news, what should we do about it? Author and podcaster Douglas Rushkoff wants a new fight against “anti-human” technologies. He says that many recent technological developments – including the rise of social media – have alienated and isolated us....

Duration:00:22:41

The fight for South Africa’s future

4/26/2019
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There’s a new wave of political activism in South Africa. Young activists with social media savvy have shaken up the system and could be a decisive factor in next month’s general election. We’ve been to Johannesburg to meet Sankara. His day job is selling eggs, and he’s a staunch supporter of the African National Congress (ANC) – the political movement that has been in power ever since Nelson Mandela was elected president 25 years ago. But this time around the ANC’s majority is not looking...

Duration:00:23:14

Fake news and false confessions in Sudan protests

4/19/2019
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Trending investigates claims that innocent men were framed to try to discredit demonstrations against Sudan’s former leader Omar al-Bashir. After mass street protests, the military stepped in to end President Bashir’s 30-year rule earlier this month. But the BBC has uncovered evidence that the regime organised a fake news campaign to try to portray peaceful protesters as violent rebels. Students were allegedly tortured to make false confessions that were filmed and distributed online....

Duration:00:22:42

Jered Threatin: The fake rock star

4/12/2019
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How did an ambitious musician fool thousands of people using social media? Jered Threatin successfully managed to fake an entire existence as a rock star. He persuaded people he was an award-winning musician who had played to sold-out venues. And as a result of his seemingly popular social media accounts and faked web pages, he orchestrated a European tour, got his eponymous band booked in venues across six countries. The BBC’s Jessica Lussenhop got an exclusive interview with Jered...

Duration:00:23:23