48 year old tutor Gilberto Martinez Vera and radio personality Maria de Jesus Bravo Pagola is being charged with inciting violence in the public by spreading false reports of children being kidnapped from schools in the city of Veracruz by unidentified gunmen via Twitter. The tweets resulted in a widespread panic as more than 24 car accidents were reported as parents frantically drove (and ran) to the schools to ensure the safety of their children.
Furthermore the phone lines were also down due to the huge amount of people calling each other to make sure things were alright.
It was understandable that there was panic considering the city has been the site of recent armed conflicts between rival drug cartels.
It was even more understandable that people thought the information tweeted was true due to the recent increase in importance of social networking
In his tweets on August 25, Vera (Gilius_22/@Gilius_22) claimed that 5 children were kidnapped after he claimed “six kids in the Hidalgo neighborhood” were killed three days prior. Vera also tweeted that he received most of what he was hearing on August 25th from his sister-in-law.
Authorities were not amused and is now considering a 30 year prison sentence for both Vera and Pagola, the latter so because she is alleged to have styled herself a “TwitTerrorist” and helped fanned the flames of panic by retweeting.
Both of the defendants’ lawyers are currently arguing that the rumors were already there and that the two had simply disseminated it without knowing if it was true or not, invalidating the government’s accusation of deliberate incitement of violence and public disorder.
However the Mexican government may have some sort of precedence as two individuals in the UK last month were both sentenced to four years in prison for calling out for more riots.