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This week’s global Twitter trends touches on many highly debated topics including using social media for political propaganda, false advertising, espionage vs. freedom of information, and gay rights. Whew. So without further adieu…

#1: Instagram

Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad has news sources buzzing after he set-up an Instagram account last week.The president’s photographs including himself and his wife Asma greeting citizens, shaking hands with military, hugging children and visiting the sick in hospital.

With this in mind, many have voiced concerns that Assad’s business-as-usual approach to the social media network may only make matters worse. Last month the UN announced that Syria was named the worst humanitarian crisis in nearly 20 years, with tens of thousands of casualties and refugees fleeing. The war-torn country remains divided over pro and anti-government.

#2: Rihanna

Pop culture icon and singer Rihanna won a case in London against fashion chain Topshop, which was selling t-shirts with her image on it without her approval. Rihanna argued that because she is a global style icon, many fans will buy a product because they think she’s endorsing it and because her face adds value to the product. Apparently Topshop had acquired the image from a fan, who had taken the photo while watching the star shoot her latest music video.

The judge ruled in her favor saying that Topshop deceived its customers, but Topshop doesn’t see it that way. Topshop’s owner, Arcadia Group Brands Ltd., argued that Rihanna won over a flawed assumption that only a celebrity could market a product bearing his or her image. Tough call.

#3: Bale

Madrid’s most renowned professional football club Real Madrid just bid a world record €100m (£86m) in straight cash for Tottenham Hotspur footballer Gareth Bale. This massive sum hasn’t been enough to sway Tottenham chairman, Daniel Levy, who has indicated that offering other players to sweeten the deal might help his decision. Levy’s resisted Real’s increasingly aggressive attempts to take Bale saying that “it’s never good to lose a big player, especially a British player… It’s important that the Premier League keeps the best players.” Tottenham has indicated that they’re specifically hoping for striker Alvaro Morata to be included as a makeweight and solidify the trade.

#4: Christian Benítez

27-year-old Ecuadorian striker Christian Benitez died of sudden heart failure on Wednesday, according to his Qatari club El Jaish. Benitez had played his first match for his new club only the day before. The soccer star led the Mexican league in scoring last season. Thousands of fans, family and friends attended his funeral and paid tribute to him with videos, images and sentimental messages on Twitter.

Here’s the best of Christian Benitez:

#5: Snowden

Edward Snowden, NSA leaker, was granted one-year asylum in Russia this week and was finally allowed to leave the Moscow airport. Russian President Vladimir Putin dismissed the US’ demands to send Snowden home to face prosecution for espionage after leaking their widespread internet surveillance program. WikiLeaks released Snowden’s statement that thanked Russia, while lashing out at the Obama administration. “We would like to thank the Russian people and all those others who have helped to protect Mr. Snowden,” WikiLeaks said on Twitter. “We have won the battle — now the war.”

“Ultimately, though, the US has only itself to blame for this cold war-style mess… The US has taken a vengeful attitude towards those who leak classified information” – The Guardian.

WikiLeaks declares victory over Edward #Snowden asylum bid: battle won, war continues http://t.co/w23PUwOTkj

— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) August 1, 2013

#6: Pope Francis

The Vatican has always been associated with more traditional and strictly religious views on liberal laws and issues like gay rights. But tides seem to be changing under the guide of Pope Francis. When asked about his stance on homosexuality Pope Francis said “who am I to judge a gay person of goodwill who seeks the Lord?” Clearly this is quite the story. While thousands support Francis’ liberal outlook on gay rights, many right-wing Catholics “generally have not been really happy” with their new pope.

#7: Russia

Snowden’s asylum into Russia had the country trending globally, but Russia’s involved in another big news story that caused it to trend. Russia has passed a new law banning gay “propaganda.” This all-encompassing law prohibits everything from gay relationships, pride events and passing “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations” to minors, all the way to exposing anyone who expresses pro-gay views or even knows a gay person. This law doesn’t just apply to Russians, foreigners visiting the country can be fined $3,000 and may spend 15 days in a Russian jail.

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said that “this mean-spirited and hateful law will affect all Russians 365 days of the year, every year. It is an incitement to intolerance, which breeds hate. And intolerance and hate breed violence.” With Russia’s 2014 Olympics around the corner, many countries, including the US, are considering boycotting the games. Gay rights activists in many countries, especially in Canada and the US are banning Russian imports from their businesses – for example, Stolichnaya Russian vodka from bars.

#8: Bradley Manning

Bradley Manning is a US soldier who was arrested in May 2010 in Iraq on the suspicion of leaking classified US military information to WikiLeaks. After 3 years in jail, Manning stood before a judge this past week in a dramatic trial that could land him to up to 136 years in military prison. He awaits sentencing but military judge Denise Lind found him guilty on 20 offenses under the Uniform Code of Military Justice including the theft of five U.S. government databases, six violations of the Espionage Act, and one violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

Manning wasn’t, however, charged with the most serious of them all: aiding the enemy. Prof. Yochai Benkler, co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School explained that by finding Manning guilty of aiding the enemy after disclosing sensitive information to the public, people would no longer be willing to put forward information and it “would severely undermine the way in which leak-based investigative journalism has worked in the tradition of [the] free press in the United States.” Thousands are protesting Manning’s charges, especially of espionage, saying that the young man (25-year-old) was whistleblowing information that should be known to the public. “Bradley Manning’s alleged disclosures have exposed war crimes, sparked revolutions and induced democratic reforms,” WikiLeak’s Julian Assange said from the embassy. “He is the quintessential whistle-blower.”

#9: Suiza

Suiza, Spanish for Switzerland, was trending in reference to a head-on train crash that took place late last Monday in western Switzerland. The crash happened near the station of Granges-pres-Marnand on a regional line near the capital, Bern. At least 35 people were injured, five of them seriously and the train driver was found dead on the scene. Officials said that it was likely that one of the trains ignored or missed a signal. While Switzerland’s train systems are considered the best and safest in the world, accidents have occurred in the past.

#10: Spain

Only days before Switzerland’s train crash, a high-speed train derailed in Spain, tragically killing 79 people. This week it was discovered that the train driver, Francisco Jose Garzon Amo was on his phone while driving the 153 km/hr train, right before it crashed. He has been charged with negligent homicide.

Find out what made our US Twitter trends this week.

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