Residents in Mexico are increasingly relying on social media, from Twitter to blogs, to stay informed and safe amid rampant violence.
Social media has become a key source for Mexican residents to engage in crowd-sourced crime-sharing, learning about outbreaks of violence through anonymous crime-reporting Twitter feeds and blog posts. The New York Times recently reported many Mexicans now trust Twitter more than local news outlets.
Local news media and government officials have come under the influence and control of Mexican drug cartels in the past year, while over 40,000 people have been killed in Mexico’s drug violence in the last five years.
Unlike social media users in the Middle East, who have pushed for a change in government or to fight repression, those in Mexico have mostly taken to social media to help people avoid violence in their daily lives.
But social media users are not immune to backlash. The New York Times reports three people were killed recently for being what the cartels call “Internet snitches,” meaning they posted to social media about cartel activities and violence. Anonymous posting to social media has become critical for this reason.
Several governments in Mexico are considering ways to crack down on social media users who threaten public order, particularly in cases where untrue rumors, spread through Twitter and other sites, lead to widespread panic.
Officials investigating social media rumors, however, must still allow for the possibility of a false report or human error. After much public outrage, for example, the New York Times reports the mayor in Veracruz pardoned two Twitter users who falsely spread rumors about a school attack, realizing they didn’t mean any harm.
For citizens who feel they can’t rely on their oppressive or corrupt governments for accurate news, social media is providing an alternative place for information and organization.