In what are the most serious charges so far yet filed for twitter (mis)use, a Mexican private school teacher and radio presenter now face 30 years in prison under anti-terror laws after allegedly spreading false reports of gunmen attacking schools and kidnapping children. The reports caused serious panic and resulted in 26 car accidents and jammed emergency lines as parents rushed to get their kids out of school in Veracruz, Mexico.
In scenes that were reminiscent of Orson Welles’s 1938 broadcast of War of the Worlds, where he convinced the American public they were actually facing an alien invasion – the two suspects are accused of causing mass panic. Both defendants, however, claim to only repeating what they read elsewhere on twitter – and with retweets their comments exploded across the social networks.
In response to the arrests, Amnesty International has accused officials of violating freedom of expression and instead blamed the panic on the city drug wars, in which 35,000 people are believed to have been killed in five years and which has seen people turning to social networks for information that is not being published in the mainstream press often due to fear of the editors. In a statement the charity said
The lack of safety creates an atmosphere of mistrust in which rumours that circulate on social networks are part of people’s efforts to protect themselves, since there is very little trustworthy information.
[via The Guardian]