In-depth reporting on the world of social media

In-depth reporting on the world of social media


London, United Kingdom






In-depth reporting on the world of social media




1. The 'd-words' v the planet

How much do disinformation and new forms of climate change denial threaten the fight to save the planet? In the first episode of a special new series running around the COP26 climate conference, BBC Trending speaks to a leading scientist who says the battle to prevent catastrophe may depend on winning the information war. Professor Michael Mann first made headlines in 1998 when he published the pioneering “hockeystick graph” which showed how carbon emissions caused by human activity are...


Beirut blast: Looking for Eleni

When an Ethiopian woman called Eleni disappeared amid the chaos of the Beirut blast there seemed little hope of discovering what had happened to her. In the wake of the explosion that devastated the Lebanese capital, rescuers searched through the rubble to try to locate hundreds of dead and missing people. As the death toll mounted, the only clue to Eleni’s fate was a pool of blood on her employer’s kitchen floor. It fell to two complete strangers - who had never met Eleni or each other - to...


The Kenyans who help the world to cheat

If a lazy student in London or New York goes online to pay somebody to do their essay, the chances are the work will actually end up being done by somebody in Kenya. So who are the African ghost writers who are paid to help wealthy foreigners fake their way to unearned success, and what do they think about what they do? Kenya has become a key hub in the international cheating industry, because it is an English-speaking country with a good education system, but where there are often limited...


The cops weaponising copyright

Could your favourite song be used to cover up the misdeeds of the police? Officers across the US have been filmed playing music - out loud - on their phones in public. They weren’t hoping this unusual display would make them go viral on social media. In fact, the aim was quite the opposite. Some officers believe that by blasting music while being filmed, the videos would get blocked by automatic copyright protection software and activists wouldn’t be able to post them online. Should we be...


Nesara: The financial fantasy ruining lives

Nesara is a decades-old conspiracy theory whose followers believe all their debts will be magically cancelled in a radical reset of the world’s economic system. It’s a bizarre and baseless idea whose promoters peddle a vision of a financial neverneverland that is always just round the corner. Many of those who get sucked in, develop an almost cult-like belief in Nesara that inspires them to make horrific financial decisions that they think will make them rich. It’s a fantasy whose real life...


Who is TikTok’s masked vigilante?

Think you’re safe being an anonymous TikTok troll or cyber bully? Think again. The Great Londini could be your worst nightmare come true. You might think you’re anonymous - but if you leave a threatening, racist or homophobic comment on someone’s video, Londini will find out who you are. If you’re a kid, he’ll contact your parents or your school. If you’re an adult, he'll really tell on you. In just a few months, the mysterious online vigilante has gained a huge following for his efforts to...


Anti-vaxxers only

As the pandemic progresses, some opponents of Covid-19 vaccines are taking things one step further. An emerging international grassroots movement is seeking to create online and offline communities away from the vaccinated world. Trending meets the people who are setting up dating sites, house share groups, even blood banks specifically for the unvaccinated only. Underpinning many of these efforts is the totally unfounded belief in “vaccine shedding” - the false idea that the unvaccinated...


The TikTok news revolution

TikTok became successful by being the app for watching viral dance videos. But with global downloads of the app recently topping three billion, it’s also increasingly a place where users are also going to find news - though not any old news. While traditional media organisations are struggling to gain a foothold on the platform, a wave of fresh and diverse creators are finding innovative ways to present the news in a style that engages TikTok’s massive young audience. Trending explores the...


The anti-vax influencer plot that flopped

Who was behind a secret plot to pay social media stars to falsely discredit the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine? Trending investigates an attempt to weaponise the power of influencer marketing in the online disinformation war over the pandemic. In May this year a marketing agency contacted influencers in several countries with an extraordinary offer. A mystery client was offering big money if the influencers would use their YouTube and Instagram videos to spread lies about the health risks...


Vaccine heroes fight back

Nicole is a paediatrician in Ohio who was shocked when she received a ton of nasty comments on one of her online videos. Her “mistake” was providing reliable, evidence-based information about vaccines. It meant that anti-vaccine activists targeted her. But with the help of a group of volunteer medical professionals called Shots Heard Around the World, she led a fight back against abuse and disinformation. The pandemic is far from over – but there are signs that science is winning out over...


Brazil’s bubble of bad information

A helicopter carrying vaccines is greeted in a by a crowd in an indigenous village – and the villagers are armed with bows and arrows. It’s just one, thankfully rare incident. But it’s a symptom of the creeping misinformation hitting some of Brazil’s most remote communities. But rather than being a vestige of traditional ideas or village life, rumours about health and vaccines are being spread in a very modern way. Mobile phone operators in Brazil often include free data in their user plans,...


The rise of India’s ‘Covid quack’

As India struggles with a surge in Covid-19 cases, it is also dealing with a wave of misinformation about the virus and vaccines. Although now banned from Facebook and YouTube, self-proclaimed nutritionist Biswaroop Roy Chowdhury built his social media stardom by claiming that conventional medicine is almost entirely wrong about coronavirus. Labelled a dangerous “quack” by his critics, Chowdhury has a track record of spreading outrageous medical falsehoods. He is opposed to all vaccines and...


One woman’s escape from the rabbit hole

Catherine’s family believed in alternative medicine and she grew up in relatively poor, fringe communities that didn’t have much to do with mainstream science or Britain’s national health system. And when social media became a big part of her life, she started believing in all sorts of wild conspiracy theories. But when she slowly realised that she was being conned by some of the pseudoscientists and charlatans she had put her trust in, she started to turn a sceptical eye on her online...


Targeting Germany’s youth

The Querdenken (in English, “lateral thinking”) sprung up last summer – it’s Germany’s anti-vaccine, Covid-denying, anti-lockdown movement, and it’s created a new crop of social media figures. The baseless conspiracy theories they spread have got more extreme over time – and one man in particular has used parents’ worries about the impact of lockdown on their children as a vehicle for false narratives. Samuel Eckert, a former evangelical preacher, runs a private Telegram group for under-18s...


South Africa's imported 'infodemic'

Recent surveys indicate that there might be rising scepticism about vaccines in South Africa. But even before the coronavirus pandemic started, the Rainbow Nation was battling a tide of anti-vaccine misinformation online. And one study found that although there is a relatively small group of South African anti-vaccine activists, they are being bolstered by a wave of material coming from abroad. We meet a pharmacist who has been tracking the alarming reach of that small group of hardcore...


France’s misinformation fight

France is one of the most vaccine sceptical countries in the world. A recent poll suggests just 40% of French people intend to take a Covid-19 vaccine, but what's fuelling the doubt? We meet the superstar doctor whose anti-authoritarian zeal has inspired an army of devotees, and the conspiracy obsessed shaman with a huge following on social media. Plus, the activists staging a fightback. “Marie” runs a pro-vaccine Facebook group aimed at countering disinformation but wants to remain...


How anti-vax went viral

Scientists say only a vaccine will really get us out of the Covid-19 pandemic. So why has the anti-vaccine movement grown stronger than ever over the last year? In the first episode of this new series, BBC Trending and a team of disinformation reporters will investigate how hardcore anti-vaccine activists have used social media to spread their message far and wide, capitalising on fear and mistrust to advance their own agendas. We’re not talking about legitimate medical debate or questions...


Votes, viruses, victims: 2020 in disinformation

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


The truth behind a ‘woke’ Instagram network

It sounds like a dream proposition. A company with a big online following messages you out of the blue, asking you to represent them as a “brand ambassador”. They promise you a boost in Instagram followers, and a discount on their products. And they even promise to donate large sums to charity. But take away the rosy filter, and the reality does not look quite so good. New followers aren’t guaranteed. And the products for sale are so vastly overpriced that even with the discount, you’re...


The roots of Donald Trump’s ‘voter fraud’ strategy

A Facebook group named Stop the Steal sprung up in the hours after the US presidential election. Within hours it had gained hundreds of thousands of followers. Members alleged the election had been “rigged”, despite a lack of evidence. But this claim came from the very top. Months before, President Trump was planting seeds of doubt over the vote – mentioning “voter fraud” and similar phrases more than 70 times on Twitter. BBC Trending looks into some of the most viral specific allegations –...