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Yelling fire in a crowded Twitter

An interesting case from Mexico: Gilberto Martinez Vera, 48, a private school teacher, and Maria de Jesus Bravo Pagola, a radio presenter, were accused of spreading false reports that gunmen were attacking schools in the south-eastern city of Veracruz. The resulting panic caused dozens of car crashes after parents rushed to save their children from ...

An interesting case from Mexico:

Gilberto Martinez Vera, 48, a private school teacher, and Maria de Jesus Bravo Pagola, a radio presenter, were accused of spreading false reports that gunmen were attacking schools in the south-eastern city of Veracruz.

The resulting panic caused dozens of car crashes after parents rushed to save their children from schools across the city and jammed emergency telephone lines, which "totally collapsed" under the pressure.

Gerardo Buganza, the interior secretary for Veracruz state, compared the ensuing chaos to Orson Welles’s spoof news broadcast War of the Worlds in 1938. The two are facing charges under terrorism laws.

I don’t know much about laws in Mexico, and terrorism charges do seem a little extreme, but this certainly does seem to meet the "fire in a crowded theater" standard. This is a particularly egregious example, but cases like this are becoming more common. Two young British men were charged recently with inciting people to riot over Facebook, and the L.A. sherrif’s office considered charges against rapper and erstwhile Marc Lynch nemesis The Game for Tweeting out a police emergency number as a prank, disabling the line. 

It’s not that surprising that people would use social media to purposely spread false information. What’s really scary is that despite years of experience with social media, people still don’t seem to be savvy enough to verify information they receive over Twitter or Facebook before acting on it. 

 Twitter: @joshuakeating

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