Credit: By James Cridland on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

The BBC has launched a new unit and platform to investigate social media trends around the world and the stories behind them.

The first story, about a piece of CCTV footage that has gone viral in Malaysia and why people share material online, will be broadcast from an in-tweet video on the #BBCTrending hashtag at 5pm GMT today.

"It's a new place for all the stuff that journalists report on to happen," said Mukul Devichand, the series producer and radio host for BBC Trending who came up with the idea. "It's like a new beat where you can see social change or new ideas or movements."

BBC Trending will publish through the BBC's magazine section of the news site, as well as on video and a weekly radio show, choosing the best platform for each story.

"People have agendas in social media just like they do in the real world and it's our job as journalists to try and understand those and cut through those," said Devichand. "This is an opportunity to do good traditional journalism that emerges out of this new sphere of life."

The videos will be internet-first, primarily through Twitter, with television a secondary consideration, in order to be directly involved in the conversations around the topic on social media. The first of the weekly radio shows will be broadcast on Saturday (2 November), to summarise and reflect on the issues raised.

"The whole point is that social media audiences don't look at one particular medium or one particular channel so we want to be able to interact with them in all sorts of media," said Devichand.

Yesterday the blogging arm of BBC Trending ran its first two stories about an online petition for justice after the rape of a 16-year-old girl in Kenya, and a video posted by a Saudi comedian called 'No Woman, No Drive' following the continued campaign by some women in Saudi Arabia to resist a ban on female drivers.

"We're looking at different societies and trying to build a very strong network of contributors and people who have been part of the BBC community," Anne-Marie Tomchak, presenter of the BBC Trending video programme, told, highlighting how the team will work with the full spectrum of BBC journalists to source and report on stories worldwide.

Devichand said this could enable the BBC Trending team to harness the "predictive power" of social media when it comes to news. By working in the same building as journalists from the BBC Chinese service, for example, Tomchak said she can find out what people are talking about on Chinese social network Weibo and spot developing trends early.

"We're going to really examine the structures of the internet," she said. "A lot of the video we're seeing and the reason it's controversial or the reason it's being shared is because it says something controversial about what's going on in a particular society."

Outside of the UK, the BBC Trending videos will be promoted in partnership with Twitter Amplify, a tool to promote online videos through the social network.

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