Mexico’s “Twitter terrorists" have been freed after four weeks in jail.
The pair, a local journalist and a math teacher, had tweeted about an attack on a primary school — that turned out to be untrue.
Before anyone realized that, panicked parents flocked to the school to rescue their kids.
When the hoax was uncovered, the two were charged with terrorism and sabotage, which could have given them 30 years in jail.
That’s kind of a long time. Supporters, while annoyed by their alarmist tweets, protested that they should be protected by freedom of speech.
But in Mexican states dealing with drug violence, people have been put on edge amid the realization that the cartels are no longer targeting their rivals and enemies, but ordinary civilians as well.
Mexicans have been relying increasingly on social-networking sites, and Twitter in particular, to spread information about attacks. With journalists under attack, some of them killed or fleeing for their lives, civilian reporting has stepped in to fill the gaps.
The value of social-networking sites hasn’t gone unnoticed by the cartels, who recently tortured and murdered two people for Tweeting about the Zetas, according to a sign left by the people’s bodies.
After their murders, some Mexicans tweeted that backing down would be a victory for the cartels. So the abuse of such a powerful tool could lead to further confusion and mistrust at a time when tensions are high.
Throwing these two in jail might have seemed reactionary by the authorities, but it’s also an effort to exert some control in a town where armed gunmen can hold up traffic to dump two trucks of bodies on the street.
That’s of course what happened on Wednesday in Veracruz.