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Cuba’s digital revolution

10/11/2019
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A revolution is underway in Cuba. The country’s communist leaders, who normally retain tight control of the media, have encouraged Cubans to become more connected online. Internet access used to be the preserve of a privileged (and relatively rich) few. But prices have come down, public wifi spots are popular, and less than a year ago 3G data access became available on Cuban phones. Along with a huge uptake in the internet has come a flood of Cubans signing up to social media accounts. Even...

Duration:00:50:40

Can an algorithm be racist?

10/4/2019
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Algorithms have shaped the internet as we know it. Complex automated instructions drive search engines and social media platforms, and offer us each a tailored, individualised online experience. Techno-optimists have long looked at artificial intelligence in awe, hoping that machines and algorithms would help humans find solutions for complex problems and remove human bias. But some are more sceptical and argue algorithms not only have human prejudices built into them – but that they are...

Duration:00:23:23

How worried should we be about deepfakes?

9/27/2019
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Recently an app called Zao zoomed up the charts in China. It uses artificial intelligence to allow people to upload themselves into famous movies. One viral clip showed a young Chinese man being transformed into Leonardo DiCaprio in the film Titanic. Although for most people it was harmless fun, the rise of Zao prompted more worrying headlines about “deepfake” technology. The concerns are not that it could be used to make fake movie clips, but instead to make fake news – for instance, viral...

Duration:00:26:12

The problem with the viral celery juice ‘cure’

9/20/2019
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The Medical Medium has millions of followers on social media. He claims he can help cure your chronic illness with home remedies like celery juice. But he doesn’t have any medical qualifications. Instead, he claims he gets his medical information from communicating with spirits. Thousands of people online say he’s helped them. But could his claims be stopping patients seeking the medical help they need. And is the rise of unqualified influencers creating distrust in real doctors? We explore...

Duration:00:23:33

Algeria’s disinformation battle

9/13/2019
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Algeria is a nation in flux - and it has become an information battleground. In February this year, thousands came out onto the streets to protest against President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's decision to run for a fifth term in office. He eventually resigned, but the demonstrators have continued to press for change. Protesters have been using social media to keep up the momentum, but a campaign of disinformation threatens to stop them in their tracks. A flurry of fake news stories has been...

Duration:00:23:49

The hunt for red mercury

9/6/2019
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Some believe red mercury is a mystical elixir with magical healing powers that has survived from the time of the pharaohs in ancient Egypt. Others fear that it is a dangerous nuclear material, which in the wrong hands could bring about the apocalypse. However, red mercury doesn’t actually exist. So why is it being offered for sale on social media? We go in search of the many amazing lives of this mysterious mythical material. Presenter: Mike Wendling Reporter: Sarah Myles Producer: Ed Main...

Duration:00:23:14

Living with China’s social media censorship

8/30/2019
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How do Chinese social media users navigate government censorship? Months of unrest in Hong Kong have caused concern in mainland China, where news about the pro-democracy protests has been carefully filtered out of social media. It’s common for social media companies in China to remove content that is perceived to be threatening to social stability or the ruling Communist Party. Beijing-based journalist and writer Karoline Kan delves into a world of forbidden words and state-sanctioned...

Duration:00:24:40

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