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Two Mexican nationals are facing a thirty-year prison sentence for causing wide-spread chaos through a series of tweets related to child kidnapping.
Maria de Jesus Bravo Pagola and Gilberto Martinez Vera have both been accused of spreading malicious rumours through Twitter that armed gangsters were attacking schools and kidnapping children in the city of Veracruz.
As a result of the tweets, emergency phone lines completely jammed and traffic came to a standstill as concerned parents came out in droves to “save” their children. The interior secretary of Veracruz, Gerardo Buganza has made comparisons to Orson Welles’ “War of the Worlds” which caused nationwide hysteria when it was first broadcast on the radio on 1938.
Buganza said, “There were 26 car accidents, or people left their cars in the middle of the streets to run and pick up their children, because they thought these things were occurring at their kids’ schools.”
These charges are the most serious to ever originate from a twitter-related occurrence and include spreading false reports and causing a total collapse of the phone lines.
The accused are not the first to face charges due to a perceived misuse of social networks. Two UK locals were recently both sentenced to four years in prison for inciting others to violence during the London riots.
One of the accused, Pagola has described herself as a “TwitTerrorist” on her Facebook page but has denied the charges which have been laid against her. The accused have said that they were only retweeting messages which had already been posted on the internet. Pagola said, “How can they possibly do this to me, for retweeting a message? I mean its 140 characters. It’s not logical.”
The incident piqued the interest of Amnesty International who 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.”
Users on Twitter have been pleading for the release of the two suspects via the #VerFollow hashtag. The state of Mexico, though, refuses to liberate the self-styled “Twitter terrorists”.