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17 April 2014 Last updated at 15:26 ET

The Saudi women smoking shishas

A woman smoking a shisha in Ramallah Shisha smoking is popular among women in many Arab countries

Should a woman have a male guardian with her at a shisha cafe? That's the debate raging on social media in Saudi Arabia.

It started with a photo posted on Twitter reportedly of a sign outside a shisha cafe in Saudi Arabia. Women were permitted to enter, it said, but only with a male escort.

Since the weekend, a discussion has been gathering pace in the country. The hashtag "Shisha Is Banned for Girls Without a Male Guardian" (#منع_تقديم_الشيشة_للفتيات_بدون_محرم) started to trend, with almost 80,000 tweets at the time of writing.

Many women were not amused, and responded with sarcasm. "All that's left is for you to tell us not to go to the bathroom without guardian," tweeted one woman. "What if I take a puff of shisha while my guardian is in the toilet? Should I blow it back out or keep it in until he comes back," said another. Some men also joked about the move. "It will be 50 [Saudi riyals] per hour to hire me," was one tweet.

But some on social media clearly supported the move. "It is a good decision, and the goal is to reduce the danger of smoking shisha among girls. There are girls who go to cafes to smoke shisha behind their parents' back," for example.

And in Gaza...

A woman smoking a shisha in Ramallah
  • This week also saw restrictions on shisha smoking, including among women, come into place in Gaza
  • This prompted a lively discussion on BBC Arabic's Facebook page
  • "If she wants to smoke shisha and get high she doesn't need to do in front of everyone," said one
  • "I think hatred of women and the need to dominate her are the real reasons behind such discriminatory laws," responded one woman

The guardian system, known as mahram, is strictly enforced in Saudi Arabia. It requires a woman to gain permission from a male guardian for all sorts of things - including travel, work, medical procedures and marriage. In a damning report, Human Rights Watch referred to it as: "the most significant impediment to the realization of women's rights in the kingdom".

Shisha, also referred to as a hookah, is popular with both men and women in Arab countries - and appears to be gaining in popularity in the UK too. It's an ornate waterpipe with a long tube used to smoke fruit-scented tabacco, and is often smoked socially.

As we've reported on this blog before, it's very common for stories to get picked up on social media and to spread rapidly before the full facts are known. The sign from the cafe in question said it was operating on the instructions of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice - often referred to simply as the "religious police". A spokesperson at the commission however told one newspaper that their instructions had been misunderstood, and the ban applied to under 18s - not women without a guardian.

Reporting by Cordelia Hebblethwaite

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Iran execution stopped at last minute

A noose on a dark background

A series of dramatic images of a public execution in Iran, which was stopped at the last minute, are being widely shared and discussed in the country.

First the empty chair, then the crowd of assembled onlookers, and the noose hanging listlessly. The accused man, Balal, is hauled out, blindfolded, screaming for his life. As he stands beside the noose, the victim's mother slaps him on the cheek. Then she pardons him, sparing his life. Seven years earlier, Balal had killed the woman's son Abdollah in a fight. They were both 17 at the time.

This sequence of Tuesday's dramatic scenes of a last-minute pardon was captured in a photo essay (you can see the images here) and by onlookers at the scene. And it's spread like wildfire among Iranians on both Facebook and Twitter. After China, Iran has the highest number of executions of any country in the world, according to Amnesty International. Most are done by hanging, and in many cases, the execution is in public. For murder, Iran uses the qisas system within Islamic law, which roughly equates to an "eye for an eye". Only the family of the victim have the authority to issue a pardon.

Those commenting on social media in Iran are almost universally supportive of the parental pardon, calling it courageous, honourable and moving. Many attribute it to the intervention of a famous TV football presenter, Adel Ferdowsipour. In an unusual move, on a recent edition of his show "90" he called for people to text in support of Balal's pardon. More than one million texts were sent according to the show. Some on social media called for the qisas system to be changed, and for a ban on the death penalty.

There's also a high-profile social media campaign at the moment to stop the execution of a 26-year-old woman, Rayhaneh Jabbari, who was due to be hanged on Tuesday for killing a man. She says it was self-defence and that the man was trying to rape her. Almost 140,000 people have signed an online petition, and at least two Facebook pages have been set up in her support. The prominent Iranian film director Asghar Farhadi has urged the family to pardon her, and the United Nations special rapporteur Ahmed Shaheed has called for a re-trial.

Reporting by Cordelia Hebblethwaite

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Nigeria's social media lesson to the world

An image tweeted on Saturday 12 April showing Yusuf Siyaka Onimisi Success for social media: Yusuf Siyaka Onimisi was released after a campaign on Twitter

It's sometimes said that social media lobbying is the ultimate in armchair activism, but are there lessons to be learnt from Nigeria?

Nigeria is right now in the grip of a string of horrific attacks by suspected Boko Haram militants who've reportedly kidnapped 200 schoolgirls and killed more than 70 in a bomb blast in the capital Abuja. And that's just in the last two days. One of the hashtags trending in response is #CitizenSolutionToEndTerrorism. Ordinary Nigerians have been trying to come up with practical steps to stop the horror and bloodshed.

It is typical of something we've often noted on BBC Trending when it comes to Nigeria; it has a very lively social media activism scene.

Start Quote

I would say with 90% certainty that if we didn't start this campaign, the guy would still be inside”

End Quote Fola Lawal Started #FreeCiaxon

No matter where you are in the world, it's easy to "like" a page on Facebook, or hit the retweet button. Whether that translates into anything real is another matter. A recent study, looking at the Save Darfur Cause on Facebook, found social media support is often pretty wafer-thin - with little concrete support, in terms of money or action, in the offline world. But there are success stories too. As we reported on this blog, the #nomakeupselfie campaign raised more than £1 million ($1.6 million) for cancer charities in the UK.

And this weekend saw one example of a success story from Nigeria. Yusuf Siyaka Onimisi had been detained for 12 days apparently for tweets he posted showing an embarrassing jailbreak in the capital Abuja. He was released and is back with his family. On hearing murmurings of his disappearance, Nigerians on social media began to investigate - verifying if the story was true, tracking down his friends and relatives, then launching a campaign for his release using the hashtag #FreeCiaxon (@ciaxon is his username on Twitter). The protest on Twitter went to the streets too, with demonstrations in cities including Lagos, Ibadan, Kano and Kaduna.

A photo of a protest to release  Yusuf Siyaka Onimisi in Lagos A picture posted on Twitter from the #FreeCiaxon protest in Lagos

As protests got underway, news began to emerge on social media of his release - with photos posted online by a family friend. "I would say with 90% certainty that if we didn't start this campaign, the guy would still be inside," says Fola Lawal, who started the #freeciaxon hashtag. "The government knows the weight of social media," she says.

BBC Trending on Nigeria

A woman wipes away tears at a refugee camp for people displaced by violence in Borno state, Nigeria

Journalist Salihu Tanko Yakasai with Freedom Radio in Kano also believes Onimisi would almost certainly still be detained had it not been for the protests on social media. "People often disappear for no reason or with no explanation," he says. "God knows what would have happened to him." Social media, he says, has become "the single most effective way" to hold the government to account in Nigeria.

Nigeria was an "early adopter" of social media says BBC Africa's Miriam Quansah and, together with Kenya, has perhaps the most active social media activism scene on the continent. The #LightUpNigeria campaign - calling for better access to electricity - was an early example and came a full five years ago.

But some Nigerians still don't have access to the technology to get onto social media, points out blogger and high-profile tweeter, Blossom Nnodim, who runs a programme called #AdoptaTweep. She's been vocal and influential in a number of social media campaigns in the country, and says many Nigerians who are online feel a sense of responsibility. "The young who do have access have taken it upon ourselves to be the voice for the ones who don't," she says. "To be the voice of the voiceless."

Reporting by Cordelia Hebblethwaite

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You can follow us on Twitter @BBCtrending


Girl learns lesson about Twitter threats

An American Airlines jet in Oakland, California. A Twitter threat against American Airlines has landed a Dutch girl in hot water

There are some things you just don't do. Making bomb threats in an airport is one. Terrorism messages directed at airlines on Twitter is another.

That's the lesson a 14-year-old Dutch girl apparently has learned after she sent the following to the official American Airlines Twitter account on Sunday morning: "Hello my name's Ibrahim and I'm from Afghanistan. I'm part of Al Qaida and on June 1st I'm gonna do something really big bye."

A screengrab of @queendemetriax's Twitter page "Sarah" panics after American Airlines says it will forward her threatening tweet to law enforcement

The tweet, from "Sarah" under the handle @QueenDemetriax_, started a social media storm and led to the girl's arrest by Rotterdam police on Monday.

After receiving the original tweet, the American Airlines account replied: "Sarah, we take these threats very seriously. Your IP address and details will be forwarded to security and the FBI."

What happened next was a string of the kind of posts you might expect a 14-year-old girl to make, for example:

"Omfg I was kidding."

"I'm so sorry I'm scared now."

"I was joking and it was my friend not me, take her IP address not mine."

"My parents are gonna kill me if I tell them this omg pls."

"My account got hacked okay I didn't tweet anything"

"I need a lawyer. Any lawyers on here?"

Her slew of responses caught the attention of the Twitter universe, as users revelled in, or offered sympathy for, the girl's plight. "Sarah" appeared to enjoy the attention for a while, boasting that she had acquired tens of thousands of followers. "I feel famous omg," she wrote. She even offered to auction her now famous Twitter handle, starting the bidding at $500.

By Monday, Twitter had suspended Sarah's account and American Airlines took down its reply. Business Insider reported that the Rotterdam police had arrested the girl - as part of its own investigation and not at the prompting of American Airlines or the FBI. The Rotterdam police posted the news on Twitter, naturally.

Update Tuesday 15 April 10:30 GMT: Police in Rotterdam have tweeted to say the girl has been released "pending further enquiries".

Reporting by Anthony Zurcher of BBC's Echo Chambers blog.

All our stories are at bbc.com/trending


Ladies do lunch to fight 'sexism'

Lucy Brisbane eating on Tube Lucy Brisbane organised the "lunch party" protest on the Tube

A Facebook page of photos of women eating on the London Underground has prompted a small protest of women who argue that the site is sexist.

Dozens of women had their lunch on public transport in London on Wednesday to protest against what they regard as a "sexist" Facebook page.

As the name suggests, the Women Who Eat On Tubes (WWEOT) page asks users on Facebook and Tumblr to post photographs of women eating while travelling on the Tube.

The Facebook page has almost 25,000 likes. "I set it up as an observational study," says Tony Burke, a film-maker, who started the page. "I was trying to capture a moment and create something artistic," he told the BBC. Burke says his decision to focus on women was based on his own personal observation that more women eat on the tube than men and that it was not intended to be sexist.

But it has resulted in a backlash. Lucy Brisbane, a student and journalist, organised a lunch party in protest and created a counter page called Women Eating on the Tube: Circle Line Lunch Party which has a smaller following of less than 500 likes. "We felt that women were being unfairly targeted and wanted to turn it on its head." says Lisa. "Today's lunch party is a positive celebration of women eating on the Tube."

Woman eating a croissant at tube platform A woman at Wednesday's "lunch party"

Capturing images of women eating on the Tube has also raised questions about privacy and whether people have the right to take photos without permission. "People may be uncomfortable with the thought of their image ending up on a website, but seeking to criminalise the taking of photographs won't change much," says Jack Hart from The Freedom Association, which campaigns for personal freedom and responsibility. Hart told BBC Trending: "What's really needed is a little common sense, not new laws."

Sexism is a hot topic on social media. This video, which recently went viral, takes examples of real encounters reported to the Everyday Sexism project. It's an initiative to help tackle sexism by encouraging women to catalogue instances, including on a dedicated Twitter page @EverydaySexism which has 137,000 followers.

Reporting by Anne-Marie Tomchak

Do women eat more than men on public transport? Is it rude to eat in public? Tweet us @BBCtrending or email trending@bbc.co.uk

All our stories are at bbc.com/trending


An alternative guide to the Indian election

India's 2014 general election is the biggest democratic exercise in history.

More than 800 million people in India are casting their electronic ballots over nine phases of voting hat started on Monday.

BBC Trending spoke to YouTube star Gursimran Khamba - a prominent Indian political satirist - who gives this alternative, and personal, guide to India's front-runners.

Video produced by Benjamin Zand

More from BBC Trending on social media and the Indian elections in a special broadcast on BBC World Service. You can listen here or subscribe to the podcast here


India and the 'social media' election

Man registers his vote in India

On Friday BBC Trending was live from the National Law School in Bangalore.

Mukul Devichand and his panel of guests discussed how social media is impacting on this year's Indian elections - the biggest voting event in the world.

BBC Trending presenter Mukul Devichand and panellist live on air

Mukul was joined by Harish Bijoor, a business strategy specialist, high-profile tweeter Tinu Cherian, and by Neha Bhatnagar and Parul Agarwal from BBC Hindi.

They talked about trolling, e-empowerment, what lessons - if any - there are to learn from the US.

The audience at BBC Trending special in Bangalore

We also live-tweeted the programme, and lots of you got in touch to lets us know what you want from your politicians in India. Here's a selection of the tweets and comments:

@jossolid wrote: "I want honest and capable representatives who care about reading bills before they come to parliament, and then debate."

@kamal_bairwa tweeted: "I just want a corruption-free India and some commonsense in politicians who think that the public are fools"

@choudhary8008‏ asked: "Why is Indian politics incomplete without including caste or religion?"

@Aam_Khaas tweeted: "Thousands of ugly-looking fingers who work hard and still feel proud to cast vote. #MyIndiaMyVote is what we live for"

@Jikkuvarghese said; "Some say social media cannot change one's mind at the time of polling. Indian youth already polarized?"

@akarora1959 wrote: "India is moving on to the next level. Its Election Commission is considering allowing Non-resident Indians a vote through the internet"

@Kiruibob also got in touch to say: "Kenya has a lot to learn from India's digital registration of voters. Kenya's election body is still analogue"

Thank you for all your comments. You can follow us or get in touch @BBCTrending

Some tweets have been edited for clarity

We are on BBC World Service radio at 10:30 GMT every Saturday - and you can catch us wherever and whenever you like by downloading our free podcast here or here.


The man who 'disappeared' in Nigeria

The Twitter profile picture of @ciaxon The Twitter profile picture of @ciaxon - his family have not been able to contact him for more than 10 days

A man who live-tweeted from the scene of an attempted jailbreak in the Nigerian capital Abuja 12 days ago, has disappeared. Activists believe he may have been arrested, and have launched a Twitter campaign for his release.

The hashtag #FreeCiaxon and the Twitter handle @ciaxon have been trending in Nigeria since late on Wednesday. There's also a lot of discussion about it on Facebook. On 30 March, the man who runs the @ciaxon account found himself at the scene of a dramatic fight between Nigerian security forces and detainees trying to escape from the State Security Service (SSS) headquarters.

It was big news in Nigeria. The SSS HQ is a stone's throw from the presidential palace, and the detainees were - according to officials - suspected militants from the notorious group, Boko Haram. Official sources say more than 20 people were killed.

Much of the news came from social media sources at the scene - like @ciaxon. It's believed Yusuf Siyaka Onimisi - also referred to as Isiaka Yusuf - runs @ciaxon. He tweeted developments, including a series of images showing both the attackers and Nigerian soldiers. The pictures were picked up by news outlets in the country. But since then, there has been complete silence on Twitter from @ciaxon. And the silence has not been just virtual. Yusuf Siyaka Onimisi's brother Sanusi told BBC Trending that he has not been able to reach him since that day. His car has been left abandoned. "Nobody has given us any information. We are in the darkness. It's inhuman, it's very, very unfair," he says. When a friend contacted Yusuf Siyaka Onimisi's workplace to ask where he was, he was told he had been arrested.

The SSS has not responded to confirm or deny Yusuf Siyaka Onimisi's detention. But Nigerians have taken to social media to demand answers. "How can you arrest people for taking pictures - this is the 21st Century," says Fola Lawal, a Nigerian now based in Qatar, who started the Twitter hashtag #FreeCiaxon. "I would have done the same in his shoes. It's called citizen reporting."

Nigeria's National Human Rights Commission has started an investigation into his whereabouts. High-profile figures, including the World Bank's former Africa vice-president Obiageli Ezekwesili, have tweeted calling for his release. "It's very, very important this gets attention," says lawyer and writer Ayo Sogunro, who's been researching and tweeting actively about the case. Critics say the government is trying to regulate social media. The irony in this case, says Sogunro, is the tweets from the @ciaxon account were broadly supportive of the security forces.

Reporting by Cordelia Hebblethwaite

Have you subscribed the BBC Trending podcast? You can do so here via iTunes or here

All our stories are at BBC.com/trending


India's public slap 'conspiracy'

Indian politics is often brutal, but it doesn't usually end with a public slap captured on camera.

That is what happened to Arvind Kejriwal, the leader of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). A rickshaw driver approached him to place a garland around his neck, but then turned on him. It's not the first time Kejriwal has been slapped in public.

The AAP is a new force in Indian politics that is known for clever use of social media. Mukul Devichand of #BBCtrending tells the story of what happened next.

Video produced by Benjamin Zand

Are you in Bangalore? We're recording a special BBC Trending radio on the Indian elections on Friday 11 April. If you would like to be in the audience, please email us at trending@bbc.com


#SaveAleppo: Syria's cry for help

Two hands held together with the words "Save Aleppo" written on them One of hundreds of "Save Aleppo" images on social media - this one is from university students in the city

There's a major social media campaign underway to raise awareness about the desperate situation for many people in Aleppo, Syria - using the hashtag #SaveAleppo.

There have been almost 120,000 tweets using the hashtags #SaveAleppo and #Save_Aleppo since the campaign kicked off on Friday. And that's just on Twitter. There have been thousands more stories shared on Facebook. More than 35,000 people have "liked" a dedicated "Save Aleppo" Facebook page, set up by pro-opposition activists.

People are being encouraged to post images and videos from Aleppo as a way of highlighting how serious the situation is there. Many of the pictures are graphic, showing buildings collapsed to rubble, and injured residents.

"It's horrifying," says Natacha Draghi who is from Aleppo and is now living in Belgium. "I see the photos of the destruction and I can't even compute it... It feels like a constant ache in the chest." Draghi is one of many Syrians who have changed their Twitter or Facebook profile pictures to a green "Save Aleppo" sign. There have also been messages of support from around the world - including from Egypt, Sweden, Germany and Turkey.

The "Save Aleppo" campaign sign Many Syrians have changed their profile image on Facebook or Twitter to this

Aleppo, in the north of Syria, has seen some of the fiercest fighting in the conflict. It's held by rebel forces and has come under heavy attack from the government - keen to regain control of the city. In late December 2013, there were reports that barrels packed with explosives bombs were dropped on Aleppo.

A building destroyed to rumble in Aleppo, Syria Many buildings in Aleppo are now just rubble

#SaveAleppo is a direct response to the #SaveKessab Twitter campaign, which - as we reported in video and in radio - started two weeks ago and was led by Armenian-Americans. Kessab is a village in the north-west of Syria, which has a large Armenian population. It was recently taken by rebels, and the residents fled - prompting the hashtag. Critics complained that the campaign was a distraction from more serious atrocities taking place elsewhere in the country, and pointed out that some of the images being shared had been taken out of context.

Reporting by Faisal Irshaid, BBC Monitoring

Have you subscribed the BBC Trending podcast? You can do so here via iTunes or here

All our stories are at BBC.com/trending


The internet's great goat obsession

Goat against the sky

Why have millions of people watched and shared goat videos online?

On the latest BBC Trending radio programme we've been finding out more about the comic potential of the goat.

We also hear from bloggers and tweeters in Ethiopia about an April Fool's hashtag, #ETVDay, highlighting restrictions on the media in the country.

And we look at the controversial Twitter campaign led by Armenians - #SaveKessab It's been tweeted more than 100,000 times and has been given a boost by celebrity endorsement, including Kim Kardashian and Cher. But, as we hear, some Syrians are unhappy about the campaign.

This week's programme is presented by Anne-Marie Tomchak and she's joined in the studio by Paul Brown from BBC Monitoring, Mahmoud Ali Hamad from BBC Arabic and Mike Wendling.

We are on BBC World Service radio at 10:30 GMT on Saturday - and you can catch us wherever and whenever you like by downloading our free podcast here or here.


India's election 'copycats'

As India begins to vote for new leaders, people are checking the fine print of the manifestos on social media.

The BJP, the opposition party led by Narendra Modi, are the current favourites to win. They've just released their manifesto - and it has sparked a "twar".

The Congress Party, which leads the current government, has accused the BJP of copying their own policies.

For BBC Trending, Mukul Devichand reports from Congress HQ in Bangalore.

Video produced by Benjamin Zand

Are you in Bangalore? We're recording a special BBC Trending radio on the Indian elections on Friday 11 April. If you would like to be in the audience, please email us at trending@bbc.com


The expats shaping India's election

There are an estimated 25 million Indians who live outside of India.

India's political parties are trying to use them to their advantage in the upcoming general election.

The three main parties, the Congress party, the BJP and the AAP, have all set up NRI - or Non-Resident Indian - teams abroad. They have intricate social media, online and call centre strategies in their attempts bid to garner more voters.

#BBCtrending takes a look at the Non-Resident Indians helping to shape India's general election.

Video journalist: Benjamin Zand

Are you in Bangalore? We're recording a special BBC Trending radio on the Indian elections on Friday 11 April. If you would like to be in the audience, please email us at trending@bbc.com


Why it's tough being a groupie in Kuwait

Pop fans in Kuwait have been criticised on social media for their 'rowdy' behaviour.

The Moroccan singer Saad Lamjarred was mobbed by screaming girls during an appearance at a shopping mall in Kuwaiti city.

Footage showing the girls climbing on their friends' shoulders and shoving security guards sparked anger amongst Kuwaitis online and hashtags about the event trended.

#BBCtrending meets Kuwait specialist Sumaya Bakhsh of BBC Monitoring to find out more.


Pharrell video inspires 1,000 re-makes

Pharrell performing live at the oscars Pharrell's performance at this year's Oscar ceremony

A project to track fan-made versions of Pharrell Williams' hit video "Happy" reveals that the number of tributes to the song has now passed 1,000 across the globe.

The original video was released last November and became an immediate sensation - it's been viewed over 150 million times on YouTube. Its simple message, and low-fi footage of ordinary people dancing as they go about their business, make it ideal for amateur re-makes.

A French couple - designers Loic Fontaine and Julie Fersing - were stunned by the number of people creating their own versions, but understood its appeal. They began adding them to WeAreHappyFrom.com, a site they made to showcase the huge number of videos being made. "One of the fundamental things about the project is that it's not commercial, religious, or political. It's just a message to say 'we are happy, we are happy'," Fontaine told BBC Trending.

The same principles apply to the videos that appear on the site - and so the number does not include some of the better known versions which have explicit political messages. Earlier this week, for example, a group in Brazil created "Porto (un)Happy" which aimed to highlight the poor conditions in Porto Alegre, one of the cities that will host the World Cup just three months from now.

Girls dancing by construction works This scene from Brazil shows unfinished construction work in the city of Porto Alegre

A map on Fontaine's site shows the location of each video - including 170 from France alone, 98 from Germany, and 13 from the UK. This week the 1,000th video was added, and the total currently sits at 1,032. Launched at the end of January, the couple thought the trend would last for a month at most. Between 20 and 40 new versions are added to the site each day, and the rate shows no sign of slowing.

World map covered in black dots An interactive map shows where the videos have been shot

Have you subscribed the BBC Trending podcast? You can do so here via iTunes or here

All our stories are at BBC.com/trending


Turkey's Twitter block 'lifted'

PM Erdogan cutting a red ribbon This satirical image was one of the most widely shared on Twitter

Twitter appears to be returning to normal in Turkey two weeks after the government blocked the site, prompting a mixture of derision and jubilation from Turkish netizens.

The hashtag "Welcome back Twitter" (#TekrarHoşgeldinTwitter) has been used more than 40,000 times already, as Turks storm the network to discuss the news. Some reports suggested it may be some hours before normal service is resumed. More than 80% of tweets using the hashtag were posted from within Turkey, implying either that people are flouting the block - as they have done in droves since it was implemented - or that service is getting back to normal. "How we've missed you," says one of the tweets. "Twitter won! Dictator lost!" says another. Many uploaded satirical images highlighting how ineffective the block was.

The country's telecoms authority has lifted the Twitter restrictions, following a court decision to overturn the block on Wednesday. Two weeks ago Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he would "wipe out Twitter" amid allegations of government corruption. Youtube was also blocked last week after an audio recording - apparently revealing officials discussing military action in Syria - was uploaded on the site. There is currently no news on that block being lifted.

Have you subscribed the BBC Trending podcast? You can do so here via iTunes or here

All our stories are at BBC.com/trending


The row over rape in Lebanon

Girl peeling a plaster from her mouth An advert for a domestic violence helpline in Lebanon

A law protecting women from domestic violence in Lebanon has just been passed. Many citizens took to social media to lobby their MPs to take action, but the precise wording of the new law has left many disappointed.

Using the hashtag #NoLawNoVote, Lebanese men and women put pressure on politicians to enact the law, and posted pictures of themselves holding their thumbs up, covered in red ink. The gesture was intended to send a message to MPs - that if they didn't support the bill, voters would not re-elect them in this summer's general election. TV news anchors and pop stars joined the campaign, and messages of support were posted from around the world. "Make your voice count!" said one, and "big support from Abu Dhabi... #RedThumbs," another posted. Use of the hashtag spiked on Tuesday, when the law was finally passed by the Lebanese Lebanese parliament.

Six Lebanese women with red thumbs outstretched

It was not the victory many were hoping for, however. Maya Ammar of KAFA, a group that has been part of the campaign, told BBC Trending: "The version that was approved is not good enough, and is not the one we fought for." The exact details of the law had been the subject of a debate lasting many years. For example, those spearheading the campaign thought that rape within marriages should be defined as a crime in its own right. In the end, the law did not go this far, and instead simply outlawed "violence" between family members. Many took to Twitter to express their disappointment: "'Don't hit her, rape her' says the new Lebanese law," was how one critic interpreted the outcome.

Ammar says she feels deceived by MPs who had originally pledged to support a more stringent version of the law. In response, her organisation designed a new image flipping the symbolic thumb upside down - which has itself been shared widely on Twitter. "If you don't vote for us, we won't vote for you," the new slogan reads.

Picture of a red tipped thumb and the slogan "You didn't vote for us, so we're not going to vote for you." A popular campaign image was turned upside down to express disappointment

Women in Lebanon have traditionally enjoyed more freedom than those in other countries in the region, and hopes for a more specific version of the law were high. Although many are disappointed with the outcome, Ammar says she would not describe it as totally ineffective. "We can always use the protection measures that were approved," she says.

Reporting by Sam Judah

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All our stories are at BBC.com/trending


Why Kim Kardashian is tweeting about Syria

The US television star Kim Kardashian has tweeted about the crisis in Syria describing it as "heartbreaking".

Kardashian, who is of Armenian descent, urged her 20 million Twitter fans to #SaveKessab - an Armenian populated village in north-west Syria.

Residents of Kessab fled at the end of March as rebels took control of the village. Some images claiming to show violence there have been debunked on social media as not genuine.

Anne-Marie Tomchak of BBC Trending reports.

Produced by Neil Meads

For more on this story listen to BBC Trending radio on Saturday at 11:30 BST on BBC World Service. You can subscribe to the BBC Trending podcast here via iTunes or here

All our stories are at BBC.com/trending


#EuropeDebate: Nick v Nigel

A debate about Britain's future in Europe was the big talking point on Twitter in the UK on Wednesday.

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg and UKIP leader Nigel Farage battled it out for an hour in a debate moderated by the BBC.

This was the second time the men came face to face for a live televised discussion on the subject of EU membership. Last week, they took part in a debate hosted by London radio station LBC.

Our reporter Anne-Marie Tomchak reports on the build up on social media ahead of the debate.

As the debate got underway at 19.00bst on Wednesday, hashtags about the event trended in the UK including #EuropeDebate, #NickvNigel and #bbcdebate.

Words relating to the topics raised during the debate also trended including 'migration' and 'Vladimir Putin'.

Twitter users also took the opportunity to joke about a remark made by BBC host David Dimbleby. "I want to turn to Nick Fararge," said Mr Dimbleby. "It's Nigel actually," replied Farage. Within minutes 'Nick Farage' was trending in the UK.

Anne-Marie Tomchak monitored how the debate played out on social media.

The BBC covered the debate extensively on it's social media platforms including live tweets from the @BBCPolitics Twitter page and updates on BBC News Facebook and Google Plus pages.


Celebrity apology breaks Weibo records

Wen Zhang with his wife Ma Yili Wen Zhang with his wife Ma Yili

A very public apology from an actor to his wife has become the biggest post of all time on Chinese micro-blogging site Weibo.

Wen Zhang is a major film and TV star in China, and has been married to actress Ma Yili for eight years. But recently pictures surfaced in which he appeared to be on a date with another woman, Yao Di, the co-star of his current TV show. Rather than dealing with the problem behind closed doors, Wen Zhang took to Weibo - a Chinese social media service similar to Twitter - to apologise to his wife in public. "I have brought this upon myself... Please accept my heart-felt apology and remorse... My mistake does not deserve to be forgiven, and it will be difficult for me to make amends for all the harm I've caused," he wrote.

The open nature of his response resonated with Weibo users, provoking a wave of activity on the network. It has now been shared 1.25 million times, and generated almost 2 million comments. The figures continue to grow, and the post has become the biggest ever to appear on the network. Many respondents were unimpressed: "Wen Zhang deceived all of us. He gained popularity by presenting himself as a good man and a good dad. But he has now turned out to be a hypocrite," said one. "You have been having an affair for a year and never repented. Now you are repentant just a day after you were exposed?" another posted. Some pointed out that the comments on Zhang's page weren't as abusive as those levelled at Yao Di, the woman with whom he had the affair. "Does society treat men and women so differently in terms of the level of tolerance and public opinion?" said one comment.

Ma Yili answered online, also choosing to post her response on Weibo. "Being in love is easy, being married is not. It is to be cherished," she wrote, and her own message prompted more than a million comments. Wen Zhang later hit out at the two senior journalists who exposed his affair. "You both have children. When will you stop? If you want to play, play with me alone and don't involve others," he posted.

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#AprilFoolsDay: A social media roundup

A can of Vegemite

Even on a normal day, social networks are awash with rumours, gags and elaborate hoaxes. So come 1 April, when pranksters are offered a free pass to wreak havoc online, they are only too happy to oblige.

Each year, use of the hashtag #AprilFoolsDay has climbed ever higher on Twitter, as its membership has swelled. It's been used more than 400,000 times in the past 24 hours, and shows no signs of abating. Here are five of BBC Trending's favourite stories that were shared widely online.

Companies have been quick to tap into traffic generated by the trend and Vegemite - Australia's answer to Marmite - was no exception. The company behind the salty spread chose today to "launch" a new energy drink, prompting imaginary delight for some, but disgust for others. The image has been shared almost 8,000 times on its Facebook page.

Mark Zuckerberg in front of an Account Killer sign Account Killer posted this picture along with their 1 April article

Facebook's next billion dollar acquisition was announced by Account Killer, an online service that helps people permanently delete their Facebook accounts, and other social media profiles. According to a post on the Account Killer website, Mark Zuckerberg himself explained the decision. "Researchers predicted that we would lose 80% of our user base by 2017, so we might as well adapt swiftly," they said he said.

In Turkey, Energy Minister Taner Yildiz chose a strange moment to make what some assumed must be an April Fool's joke, but in fact appears to be genuine. Answering journalist's questions about widespread power cuts during vote counting following Sunday's local elections he said: "A cat entered a power distribution unit. It was the cause of the blackout and it's not the first time that it has happened." Twitter users took the bizarrely timed comment in their stride, however. "Just caught the cat," said one, posting a picture of his cat beside the requisite tools.

A cat with wire cutting tools

In Kenya, the renowned author Binyavanga Wainaina was "appointed" as the country's ambassador to Uganda according to The Star newspaper. The Kenyan writer recently came out, and has championed the rights of gay people in East Africa. If true, he would likely clash with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who recently signed an anti-homosexuality bill into law.

Binyavanga Wainaina

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'I don't deserve to be raped'

XX Journalist Nana Queiroz believes attitudes towards women need to change in Brazil

There's been a huge backlash on social media in Brazil, after a new survey suggested 65% of Brazilians think women who dress in a revealing way "deserve to be attacked".

Late last week, a major Brazilian research institute published a report on attitudes towards sexual harassment and rape. They asked 3,800 people across the country if "women who wear clothes that show off their body deserve to be attacked". Some 65% said they agreed to some degree. More than half also agreed that "if women knew how to behave, there would be fewer rapes". The findings have provoked a wave of anger - expressed across social networking sites.

The online protest was launched on Facebook, where people were encouraged to use the hashtags "I don't deserve to be raped" (#NãoMereçoSerEstuprada) and "Nobody deserves" (#NinguémMerece). A Facebook group, which now has more than 3,000 members, was started by journalist Nana Queiroz, and similar pages have tens of thousands more. Queiroz posted a photo of herself naked, standing in front of the Brazilian congress building, covered only by her arms on which she had written the name of the new campaign: "I don't deserve to be raped". Similar images soon followed and have been posted across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Queiroz told BBC Trending she was most surprised to find out that two-thirds of those questioned for the survey were women themselves. "These women are the biggest victims of sexism. They are so oppressed that they don't even feel that they have the right to have their own opinion," she says. Some have questioned the methodology of the survey, and suggested more detailed research needs to be carried out before it can be considered conclusive. Indeed, responses to another question suggested 91% of Brazilians thought men should be imprisoned for beating their partners. Dilma Rousseff, Brazil's first female president has even tweeted about the survey - saying the country has "a long way to go on combating violence against women".

Update 11 April 2014: The institute which published the research - the IPEA - last week revealed it had made a mistake in its findings. The correct figure for the percentage of Brazilians surveyed who agreed that women who dress in a revealing way "deserve to be attacked" was actually 26% they said - not 65%. Nana Queiroz told BBC Brasil that it's the institute which has been "discredited" - not the protest movement. Earlier this week Queiroz met President Rousseff to discuss a campaign to get doctors and teachers more involved in changing attitudes on rape and sexual harassment.

Reporting by Sam Judah and Camilla Costa

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Nose kissing in Saudi Arabia

A parody of the 'first kiss' video has itself become a YouTube hit in Saudi Arabia.

The original 'first kiss' has been watched more than 70 million times. It featured strangers kissing for the first time and resulted in a number of spin-offs including this one from Saudi Arabia which shows men adopting the Bedouin tradition of rubbing noses.

#BBCtrending tells the story behind Saudi Arabia's "first kiss".

Produced by Anne-Marie Tomchak

Video created by Benjamin Zand


The trolling of Turkey's PM Erdogan

Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan

The big news on social media over the past few days has been the block of YouTube in Turkey - which came hot on the heels of a similar restriction on Twitter.

Neither has been particularly effective, as Turks are widely using proxy servers to get round the block. But why does Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan hate social media so much? Turns out he has his reasons, as BBC digital consultant Esra Dogramaci explains in the latest BBC Trending radio.

Also in the programme, "Don't give it to a Russian" - the "deliberately provocative" protest by women in Ukraine. And did you know that nose kissing is traditional among men in Saudi Arabia?

Also in the studio, Mai Noman from BBC Arabic and Masha Kondrachuk from BBC Monitoring in Ukraine.

BBC Trending airs on BBC World Service every Saturday at 11:30 GMT. You can catch up on any edition here, and subscribe to our free podcast here.

All our stories are at BBC.com/trending


What's behind Turkey's YouTube block?

A mural of Berkin Elvan A mural in memory of Berkin Elvan, who died after sustaining injuries in last year's demonstrations

On Thursday the Turkish government blocked YouTube, having done the same to Twitter last week. But why is Prime Minister Erdogan so determined to shut down social media?

His frustration began in May last year, when demonstrators organised a protest on Twitter to save Istanbul's Gezi Park from demolition. Erdogan sent riot police armed with tear gas and water cannon to disperse the crowds. But the aggressive response only enflamed matters, and sparked solidarity protests across the country.

The unrest saw divisions open up in an old political alliance. Erdogan's governing AK Party had been supported for years by a disparate but powerful group of Turks who follow the teachings of an imam now living in America. His name is Fethullah Gulen, and his supporters form what is known as the Hizmet movement. Since the Gezi Park protests, a series of disagreements between the two groups has threatened to undermine Erdogan's authority. Hizmet has a huge following, and its supporters occupy positions of power right across Turkish society.

In December, a number of taped phone calls which appeared to expose corruption amongst Erdogan and his allies were posted anonymously on Twitter. More allegations followed, including many which were personal to the prime minister. Erdogan claims these have been fabricated by members of Hizmet, and blames social media for allowing them to spread. In February his government rushed through a new law allowing websites to be blocked on command. Earlier this month, when Twitter refused his request to remove posts he claimed were libellous, Erdogan acted to enforce the block.

Is the Hizmet movement "trolling" Prime Minister Erdogan? They rarely give interviews but journalist Selcuk Gultasli, Brussels Correspondent for the Zaman newspaper - which takes inspiration from Gulen's teachings - told BBC Trending he thought it was "misleading" to call it a concerted campaign. "Twitter and Facebook are very much used in Turkey, and there is huge pressure on traditional media," he said, "so it is only natural that social media will be the venue where allegations are circulated freely."

The most recent leak was not posted on Twitter, but on YouTube, and its implications are more serious. The audio recording appears to have been made at a face-to-face meeting, where senior ministers were discussing possible military action in Syria. Its publication has triggered the same reaction from the government, which has now blocked access to YouTube as well. On Friday Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc told journalists there were no plans to block Facebook, but this has not stopped the rumours that it may be next in line.

Reporting by Sam Judah

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Fake 'MH370 search' video goes viral

A still from one of the videos on YouTube claiming to be related to the MH370 search Many postings on YouTube claim this ship was involved in the MH370 search

A video of a ship supposedly searching for the debris of the MH370 flight has been widely shared on social media and picked up by news organisations - including a British newspaper. The problem is it has nothing to do with the search at all.

A video showing a ship driving forward through choppy seas has been widely shared on Facebook. One thread alone - posted by a Malaysian woman - was shared more than 100,000 times, before being pulled. People commenting praised the courage of those involved in the rescue operation, and sent their prayers. "We in Australia hope and pray that the wait will soon be over," was one. "I salute them for their unbroken faith and braveness!" was another. It was also widely shared on Facebook in India, and on YouTube - this posting alone was watched more than half a million times.

But the video was first posted on YouTube more than a year ago - and therefore clearly has nothing to do with the search. It was uploaded by Captain Ivan Zakryzhevskiy, who told BBC Trending the ship was a short way off the coast of Portugal at the time and en route to the UK. In short, nowhere near the Indian Ocean where the current search for the wreckage is on. Zakryzhevskiy says he only realised his video had been reposted - and falsely linked to the MH370 flight - when he started getting hundreds of comments on his YouTube page.

News organisations were also fooled. The Telegraph, which published the footage online, has now taken it down. India's Storypick issued an extensive apology. The BBC has also been taken in by similar social media generated stories which have turned out to be incorrect. If you want to know if a video is genuine, this is a helpful guide to verification.

In the absence of much solid information, all sorts of theories have circulated on social media - everything from US singer Courtney Love's coordinates showing where she thought the plane was, to it vanishing in the Bermuda Triangle. There was even a shaman in Malaysia claiming he could find it using bamboo binoculars, coconuts and a fish hook.

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Turkish PM lampooned for 'helium' voice

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Turks on Twitter are making jokes about Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan after a campaign speech he gave in which his voice was very high-pitched - with many on Twitter saying it was if he had sucked in helium.

Ever since the Turkish Prime Minister vowed to "wipe out Twitter" last week and promptly shut down the service, he has faced the wrath of defiant Turks who have found ways around the block.

Earlier on Thursday, Erdogan gave a campaign speech in Van in the east of Turkey, for this weekend's local elections. His voice was unusually - and distinctly - high-pitched and squeaky. Almost instantly, the jokes began on Twitter. "I think the Twitter bird is trapped inside him," was one of the tweets. "We have asked you to be a world leader, and all you have become is a Teletubby," was another.

Others praised the assembled crowd for their restraint. "People of Van deserve the greatest praise for holding themselves together and not bursting into laughter," wrote one. "He couldn't intimidate us by making us cry - he is now trying to eradicate us by making us laugh. Hold on to each other comrades," was another... And so it went on.

Soon the hashtag #helyumlobisi - which translates as "helium lobby" - began to trend. Critics say the prime minister tends to blame lobby groups for his woes. At the time of writing, there have been more than 21,000 tweets using that hashtag, and it's even prompted its own - albeit very small - Twitter handle.

This has trended on Twitter in Turkey, despite the service being blocked by authorities. People - including politicians - are widely getting around the ban by using proxy servers. On Wednesday, a court in Turkey ordered the suspension of the ban on Twitter but it hasn't been put into effect.

Reports are coming in from Turkey that YouTube has now been blocked too. The hashtag #YouTubeisBlockedinTurkey is just starting to trend - mirroring the hashtag widely used when the Twitter block came in place, #TwitterisblockedinTurkey.

Are you in Turkey? Can you access YouTube? Are you getting round the block? If so, how? Let us know @BBCtrending or email trending@bbc.co.uk

All our stories are at BBC.com/trending


Police under fire for shooting homeless man

Police officers point their guns at a camper James Boyd died the day after being shot by police

A video of police shooting a homeless man in New Mexico has shocked many, and been viewed more than 700,000 times on YouTube.

The footage wasn't captured by a member of the public, but by the police themselves - using cameras attached to their uniforms. The graphic film was posted online on Friday following a public information request. Most people commenting appear outraged by the incident which they think shows a gross misuse of power.

According to local reports, 38-year-old James Boyd was sleeping in the Albuquerque foothills in mid-March when officers approached him about camping illegally in the area. It's believed that Boyd, who reportedly has a criminal history and may have suffered mental health problems, argued with them for three hours before the events shown in the video. On picking up his belongings to leave, the officers fire a flash bang - a disorienting device - a Taser, two rifles, a bean bag rifle and release a police dog as well. Boyd is seen clutching two small knives which he takes out after shots are fired. He died a day later in hospital.

The Albuquerque Police Department was one of the first - and still one of the few - in the country to require officers to wear cameras. The system is now being trialled in a number of other cities as well. The policy clearly leaves the department open to a far greater degree of criticism on social media than before. Indeed, the response to the footage on YouTube has been ferocious. "What careless disregard for human life," was one typical comment, and "I usually side with the police, but this is just cruel," read another.

Steven Robert Allen of the American Civil Liberties Union says he found the footage disturbing. He wonders whether the police could have approached Boyd in a way "that deescalated the situation and left him alive".

The Albuquerque Police Department has been involved in a number of controversial shootings in recent years, and was already the subject of a federal investigation. Gordon Eden, the new police chief, said at a press conference this shooting was justified because his officers were under threat. But the city's mayor Richard Berry has now intervened to say Eden's comment came prematurely and was "a mistake". The incident is the subject of an ongoing investigation.

Reporting by Sam Judah

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#NoMakeUpSelfie error

Millions of pounds have been donated to cancer charities in the UK and Ireland as a direct result of the #nomakeupselfie trend. Cancer Research UK says it has received £8m since the trend went viral.

The BBC has learned that approximately £20,000 has been sent to the children's charity UNICEF in error. The mistake has even led some people to accidentally enquire about adopting a polar bear through the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

Anne-Marie Tomchak of #BBCtrending explains how the trend continues to grow and how some donations were sent to the wrong place.


Twitter's reaction to flight MH370

Malaysia's prime minister has announced that missing flight MH370 crashed in the southern Indian Ocean.

Najib Razak said this was the conclusion of fresh analysis of satellite data tracking the flight.

#BBCtrending takes a look at how the announcement was received on social media.

Video created by Benjamin Zand.


One very long night on Twitter

Turkey is one of the world's most active countries on social media. So what happens when Twitter is blocked there? Millions of tweets from Turkey, that's what.

Turkey's Prime Minister said late on Thursday that he wanted to "wipe out" Twitter using new laws, and soon after users in Turkey reported that they couldn't access the site. This led to a deluge of tweets being posted via proxy servers and SMS throughout the night.

#BBCtrending looks back over Turkish Twitter activity from dusk on Thursday to dawn on Friday, and traces the key moments in the story.

Video created by Benjamin Zand .


US TV drama about Saudi Arabia axed

A woman wearing a headscarf

A US television channel has scrapped plans to produce a pilot programme called Alice in Arabia after Twitter users labelled the concept "lazy" and "racist".

The channel in question - ABC Family - announced it would be making the show last Monday, and the premise caused immediate alarm. The story revolves around a fictional character called Alice, an American teenager kidnapped by her extended Saudi Arabian family. "Alice must count on her independent spirit and wit to find a way to return home while surviving life behind the veil," the promotional text reads. By the end of the following day the hashtag #AliceinArabia had been used more than 4,000 times, and has been mentioned another 6,000 times since. Despair seemed to be the primary sentiment. "ABC's New Show #AliceInArabia Is Flooded With Horrifying, Inappropriate Stereotypes," said one. "Muslim males in Hollywood: 1) Hijackers 2) Kidnappers 3) Somali Pirates 4) Taxi drivers 5) Convenience store owners," said a member of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, an organisation that subsequently called for a meeting with the channel.

By Friday, the weight of public opinion was overwhelming and ABC announced the show would be cancelled. "This just in: Twitter activism has effectively caused ABC to drop #AliceInArabia!" one relieved tweeter posted. The mood lifted, and humour soon came to the fore. "I wonder what ABC productions is going to do with all of that unused skin bronzer," said Hend Amry, a Qatar-based writer who was raised in the US. Talking to BBC Trending she says the script for the programme - which was later leaked in full - "only confirmed the blatant stereotyping of Arab culture" in the US media.

A number of satirists asked people to imagine the concept in reverse. Karl Sharro designed a spoof advertising campaign for a show called Ali in Amreeka in which a Muslim teenager finds himself trapped in America, "unable to reconcile himself with the excess and corruption of Western culture". Sharro told us he found ABC's plans for the show particularly disappointing because, three years after the Arab Spring "there's so much dramatic potential - to do something clever". ABC said they decided to cancel the programme because the current conversation was "not conducive to the creative process".

A man surrounded by a cowboy hat, gun and burger Sharro's spoof advert turns the concept on its head

Reporting by Sam Judah

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Sex and the African City

A new internet series, described as Africa's answer to Sex and the City has been launched on YouTube.

An African City is set in the Ghanaian capital Accra and follows five African women who return to the continent after spending much of their adult life abroad in the US and UK.

The creators say social media has been crucial to the success of the show and has enabled Africans around the world to exchange their experiences online.

But is it reflective of African women today? Anne-Marie Tomchak from #BBCtrending reports.

Video produced by Benjamin Zand.

More on this on our radio programme on Saturday 22 March at 11:30 GMT on BBC World Service radio. You can subscribe to the podcast here


Turks defy block on Twitter

Twitter's logo turned red, with the bird's beak zipped shut

Twitter is blocked in Turkey. But that hasn't stopped swathes of people in the country from tweeting using technical loopholes - including the president and several senior politicians.

Since late on Thursday night Twitter users in Turkey have been confronted with a message telling them "protection measures" have been placed on the network. The block was implemented by the government shortly after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to "wipe out Twitter", because allegations of corruption were posted on the site.

Prime Minister Erdogan tied up by Twitter birds Satirical images soon started to be shared on Twitter

But overnight, thousands of people have found ways to skirt the restrictions, and sharing instructions on how to do so. The hashtag #TwitterisblockedinTurkey has been used more than half a million times in the last 12 hours, mostly by users in Turkey itself. Others, including #OccupyTwitter and #ErdoganBlocksTwitter, are also trending. It is telling that many of the most popular tags - as well as the tweets themselves - are written in English, in a bid to draw international attention. As in other countries where Twitter is blocked, Turks have been using proxy servers to access the network. Two more popular phrases - DNS and VPN - also feature frequently in the messages, along with instructions on how to sidestep the block.

Instructions on how to bypass the block scrawled on a Turkish wall Instructions on how to bypass the block were scrawled on walls

It isn't just Turkish citizens that have found ways to bypass the block, however. Senior politicians have been circumventing the restrictions as well. The country's president Abdullah Gul tweeted that "the shutdown of social media platforms can not be condoned" - his first post since approving a law allowing tighter government control of internet access. The Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc tweeted about a forthcoming political rally, suggesting he had chosen to ignore the ban, or assuming it did not apply to him. The block has so far proved ineffective in suppressing political satire, and the network has been flooded with images mocking the decision.

Anne-Marie Tomchak on how Turkish Twitter users reacted to the block

Reporting by Sam Judah

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Obama's virtual 'ban' in Russia

An sign which says "sanctions" and has an image of Barack Obama with a cross through it Some Russians have been making makeshift signs saying that President Obama is barred

BBC Trending is the BBC's social media team, reporting on stories trending around the world. Here's our latest dose of five global trends.

Obama 'barred' from Russia

Some Russians have been busy making homemade "no entry" signs barring US president Barack Obama and other top American officials from entering their shops and offices - and sharing them on social media.

Some of the signs even ban him from stroking their pets. It's a response to recent US sanctions on a number of officials, following the referendum in Crimea. The images are in good humour, but the sentiment behind them is telling, says the BBC's Dmitry Shishkin.

A dog with a sign which says: "Sanctions - US Congress and US President Barack Obama are prohibited from stroking this dog"  This says: "Sanctions - US Congress and US President Barack Obama are prohibited from stroking this dog"

#Torybingo

The UK's Conservative Party is being widely mocked on Twitter, as an advert promoting the new budget has been called "patronising". It highlights cuts to taxes on beer and bingo, saying this will "help hardworking people do more of the things they enjoy".

The image that  Grant Shapps tweeted It was this image from the ad which was tweeted by Grant Shapps

Late on Wednesday, the Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps tweeted an image from the ad and urged others to "spread the word". The response was not positive. "What planet are you on? Unbelievable," was one of the tweets.

Soon after, the hashtag #Torybingo began to trend, with many people spoofing the original ad. A mocked-up picture of senior Tories playing bingo was widely shared. There have been more than 35,000 tweets using the hashtag.

An mocked-up image of senior Conservatives playing bingo

Chronicles of a missing iPhone

When Jenny Roberts Dodge lost her iPhone, she thought it was gone forever. But she tracked it down to a local bar, and when she collected it, she discovered a series of video recordings from the stranger who handed it in. The videos - which she posted on YouTube - show him wandering around the city, wondering how he will ever get the phone back to her. Dodge still doesn't know who the stranger was, but she says "thank you" anyway.

Crimea's internet star

The new prosecutor general of Crimea, Natalia Poklonskaya, appears to have made a big impression in both Russia and Japan. But it's nothing to do with anything she has said or done. What has captivated Japanese and Russians on social media is her looks, where countless "fan art" images have been created.

Death of a legend

One of India's best known authors and journalists, Khushwant Singh, has been trending in India following his death at the age of 99. Entrepreneur Ramesh Srivats tweeted: "Khushwant Singh, you don't need an RIP. I don't see you ever seeking rest, or peace. Enjoy." Some of the tweets referred to the risque nature of his work, and life. "From all I have heard, the tribute he would prefer would involve the drinking of scotch and telling of dirty jokes!" tweeted journalist Gaurav Kalra.

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The satirist and the anti-Semites

An Egyptian walks past posters of Egyptian satirist Bassem Youssef Youssef is a major star in Egypt

The satirist Bassem Youssef - seen by many as Egypt's answer to Jon Stewart - has recently been accused of plagiarising someone else's work, triggering a Twitter storm that ended with racist abuse being hurled at an unwitting Western journalist.

Youssef's popular television programme - El Bernameg - is reminiscent of Stewart's Daily Show, and his pointed political satire has often led to friction with the authorities. Now an article published in his name has caused a furore on social media, and highlighted an ugly side of Egyptian public opinion.

It all began when he submitted an article to Al-Shorouk, an Egyptian newspaper. Entitled "Why Putin does not care", the piece was a comment on the events unfolding in Russia. Although it was written in Arabic, sharp-eyed Twitter users spotted striking similarities to a piece called "Why Russia No Longer Fears the West," by British writer Ben Judah. Dr Youssef was quick to apologise. He posted a correction to the article crediting Judah, and blamed "work stress" for the oversight.

Judah himself took the incident in good spirit. "Last thing I expected to happen today would be to be involved in an Egyptian media scandal" he tweeted, and later added "I accept @DrBassemYoussef apology." He also said "Egyptians! Free media essential @DrBassemYoussef does important work. We all make mistakes".

Although Judah's messages seemed good natured, they prompted a wave of anti-Semitic tweets from Egyptians, apparently because of his Jewish surname. Most had nothing to do with his original article, or his interaction with Youssef, but were aimed instead at trolling the journalist - one sent him a picture of Adolf Hitler, for example. A number of Egyptians have now sent messages of apology. One of them, Nervana Mahmoud, said the anti-Semitism was accompanied by similar abuse against Youssef, for plagiarising not just anyone, but someone Jewish. "The knives are out for Bassem Youssef, and they think they finally got him."

Judah tweeted: "Dear Egyptians! I was victim of stolen article, I accept apology, forgive man, I explain I believe peace and I get mass hate? Very uncool." Youssef, whose mistake set events in motion, is yet to comment on the affair.

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Video spoofs India's skin lightening craze

Two Indian men in discussion A celebrity lookalike explains the benefits of the spoof product

An Indian comedian aiming to skewer India's skin lightening culture has filmed a satirical advert for an intimate skin lightening cream - especially for men.

Its creators say they want to highlight "the absurdity of the trend" in which lighter skin is considered more desirable. The video has been viewed more than 200,000 times since it was posted on YouTube on Friday. The mock advert stars a young man - played by comedian Varun Thakur - who cannot find a wife because he is too dark. But with the help of the new spoof product his fortunes are transformed, and he instantly secures an enamoured bride. With a dark comedic twist, the skin lightening cream is specifically for male genitals. As ridiculous as the premise sounds, it broadly mirrors a real life advert for similar product currently marketed to women.

The idea began as a stand-up act performed around the country by Thakur. "I wanted to make a comment on how India was obsessed with fairness creams," he told BBC Trending. "We have a vagina bleaching cream. We have a fairness cream for every body part except testicles." The video has generated a slew of comments - mostly signalling an appreciation of the gag. "A big slap to those who sell fairness," said one. "Finally, the cream I had been waiting for!" joked another.

A number of Bollywood stars have appeared in real adverts promoting skin lightening creams. Last year actor Shah Rukh Khan's decision to endorse Fair and Handsome attracted a huge amount of criticism, and led to the creation an online petition by the Dark is Beautiful campaign. Sameer Pitalwalla of Culture Machine, the company that produced the spoof online video, says: "It's a whole roster of Indian stars who peddle a product because they're getting paid for it."

The genuine adverts propagate what Pitalwalla describes as "deep-seated racism" in Indian culture, and the issue appears to be a heavily entrenched one. One 2010 report suggested the market for skin lightening creams was worth £260m ($432m), and growing at 18% per year. "Fair-skinned people tend to get better jobs, they get more attention, they star on television," says Jerry Pinto an Indian cultural commentator. "It's a racist inequality."

Reporting by Sam Judah

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The 'no makeup' selfie trend

A woman wearing no makeup takes a selfie Makeup-free selfies began flooding Twitter on Tuesday...
A woman wearing no makeup takes a selfie ...and kept coming...
A woman wearing no makeup takes a selfie ...and coming...
A man wearing makeup takes a selfie ...some men flipped the meme on its head, posting images of themselves in makeup...
A woman holding a sign asking for donations for Cancer Research ... despite being baffled, charities began harnessing the trend.
Helen Joyce posted her no make up selfie on her Facebook page Helen Joyce posted a no make-up selfie with photos of her parents who died from cancer.

Although nobody knows quite why, on Tuesday afternoon Twitter users began posting 'no makeup' selfies along with calls to cure cancer, provoking an impromptu fundraising campaign.

Across the UK, social media timelines have been bombarded with the #nomakeupselfie hashtag. It has been used almost 15,000 times on Twitter and many thousands more on Facebook as well. So what prompted the unusual trend? Most of the pictures are accompanied by phrases like "cure cancer" and "cancer awareness" but - at least to begin with - they weren't associated with any specific goal or charity. This was not an orchestrated campaign.

Baffled by the trend, a backlash began in earnest. One confused tweeter posted: "Because not wearing make up is like... having cancer? I hope I'm missing the point here." Another said: "I don't get the #nomakeupselfie for cancer? How does it help? I'd rather donate money towards it that take a picture." Soon bloggers were entering the fray too.

Though the hashtag wasn't started by a cancer charity, charities in the field swiftly jumped on board. A Cancer Research staff member posted a makup-free photo with the message "the campaign isn't ours but every £ helps", holding up instructions on how to donate, and other charities followed suit.

Update 20 March 20:30 GMT: Cancer Research UK says it has had more than 800,000 text donations since Wednesday - raising more than £1 million ($1.6 million). Two other UK based charities - Breast Cancer Care and Breast Cancer Campaign - told BBC Trending they have also seen a significant increase in donations over the past 24 hours.

The hashtag #nomakeupselfie has now been used 51,000 times on Twitter and many people are posting links to their favourite cancer charities along with their photos. "This is the first time I've ever done something like this. I would normally view posting selfies as quite a vain thing to do. But this is different" said Helen Joyce, who posted a #nomakeupselfie on her Facebook page. She added photos of her parents from their funerals. "They died of cancer within two-and-a-half years of each other," she wrote. "It's all well and good taking a picture but it's only through the great work of organisations that hopefully someday, people won't have to take a picture to the untimely funeral of someone they love."

Our reporter Anne-Marie Tomchak explains how the trend became so popular and what wearing no make-up has to do with cancer.

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Mapping racism in Tokyo

Activists in Japan are using a novel way to tackle racism.

They're using Google Maps to pinpoint xenophobic graffiti in Shin-Okubo, a part of Tokyo with a large ethnic Korean community.

As we reported on our radio programme, Google Maps is being used to highlight the rise of the "netouyo" or online nationalists.

Anne-Marie Tomchak of #BBCtrending reports on the social media drive against racism in Japan.

Produced by Dean Arnett

Is social media being used to spot or report racism where you are? Get in touch with us on Twitter @BBCtrending or email trending@bbc.co.uk

All our stories are at bbc.com/trending


Police leave polite note in drugs bust

Tweet showing not left by Greater Manchester Police

The Trending Team is, as ever, keeping an eye on stories trending around the globe. Here's a selection of the trends that have caught our eye.

'We need to talk'

Police in the UK have taken a "social" approach to fighting crime. Nobody was home when Greater Manchester Police carried out a drugs bust in a house and found 72 cannabis plants. So they left a note (above) and posted it to Twitter. It said "We need to talk. Unfortunately you were not at home and have no cannabis left." It is not known if anyone ever came forward, but the tweet has been shared almost 2,000 times.

Holy water?

Does water used to wash the feet of a political leader carry spiritual properties? That's the debate happening online in Indonesia after this image (below) went viral. The man is drinking water from a basin used to wash the feet of Indonesia's former president and opposition leader Megawati Sukarnoputri. Many have expressed their distaste for the practice, calling it "disgusting" and saying "yuck!". The man pictured told local news media that he was determined to wash Megawati Sukarnoputri's feet and his dream has now been accomplished.

Image of man drinking water used to wash former Indonesian president's feet
Poland's Eurovision dream

Remember our video about Slavic cultural cliches? Well, an English version of the song My Slowianie - Us Slavs - has been selected as Poland's entry to Eurovision 2014. The song is a collaboration between the Polish rap artist Donatan and the singer Cleo.

Watch our report on 'My Slowianie'

Belly-dancing 'model mum'

Egyptians have been discussing whether a well-known Egyptian belly dancer should have been awarded the title of "model mother". Although Egypt is famous for belly dancing, many Egyptians regard belly dancing in public as inappropriate. The name of the belly dancer - Fifi Abdu - has been trending on Twitter in Egypt.

Skin lightening in India spoofed

There are all sorts of skin lightening products on the market in India - it's big business. But an Indian comedian, Varun Thakur, and a company called Culture Machine have made a spoof advert mocking India's obsession with the creams. Their video jokes about a testicular skin lightening cream for men, and has been viewed more than 200,000 times. There are similar creams on the market for women. We'll have more on this story soon.

Compiled by Anne-Marie Tomchak

Has the skin lightening business in India gone too far? Can you be a belly dancer and a "model mum"? Get in touch with us on Twitter @BBCtrending or email trending@bbc.co.uk


Are women-only seats a good idea?

Should women have designated seats on public transport? We asked you - and hundreds of you responded with your thoughts.

Last week, we reported - on our radio programme and in the video above - on an image that's been widely shared on social media in India. It shows two men sitting in seats on the Delhi metro, which are clearly labelled as being "for ladies only". We asked for your thoughts on the BBC India Facebook page, the BBC World Service Facebook page, and via our @BBCtrending Twitter account and email.

Many of your comments were critical of the men. "Chivalry is dead in India," wrote Redd Zetroc. "Shame on them," tweeted Amadi Ras. "No matter what the rules, young dudes sitting when a woman is standing and holding a child is rude," wrote Judith Sirreal.

Some said the men should be "shamed" and questioned why we had blurred their faces in our report. The reason BBC Trending did so was because the circumstances around the image were not confirmed, and we felt it would be unfair to open them up to potential abuse online. Some who wrote in suggested the men may have been illiterate or blind.

Opinion was divided on whether designated seating for women is a good idea or not. "Seats should not be reserved for ladies unless they're old, injured, pregnant or sick," wrote Manisha Kathayat. Others - like Souveek Pal - argued that having special seats for women is an outdated idea which suggests that "women are weak". Elizabeth Umanzor agreed - and said, in the US, designated seating has echoes of racial segregation. "If we want so much equality like men... then seats should be unisex," she said. But others reported problems with groping when travelling on public transport in India and welcomed separate seats for women.

There was a fair bit of discussion about whether men would leave women and children standing on public transport elsewhere in the world. The general consensus was "yes". Many of you - from Germany, to Malawi, Brazil, Malaysia, Japan, Mexico and Bangladesh - shared similar stories.

Do you have a story you think we should cover on BBC Trending? Or a response to a story we've done? Let us know @BBCtrending, or trending@bbc.co.uk


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.

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