A man and a woman in Mexico face possible 30-year sentences for terrorism and sabotage, after allegedly putting false reports of child kidnappings on Twitter.
The Associated Press reports that the posts helped cause “a chaos of car crashes” in Veracruz, on Mexico’s Gulf Coast.
Gilberto Martínez Vera, 48, a private school teacher, and Maria de Jesus Bravo Pagola, a radio presenter, are accused of spreading false reports that gunmen were attacking schools in Veracruz on August 25th this year. Martínez apparently posted on his Twitter account that: “My sister-in-law just called me all upset, they just kidnapped five children from the school.” Prosecutors claim that Bravo also spread rumors though retweets.
Gerardo Buganza, the interior secretary for Veracruz state, has likened the panic generated by the Twitter reports to Orson Welles's 1938 broadcast of War of the Worlds.
"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," he said, according to the AP.
Both Bravo and Martínez have pleaded not guilty to all charges, claiming that the rumors already existed on the internet. Speaking through her defense lawyer, Bravo said: “How can they possibly do this to me, for retweeting a message? I mean, it’s 140 characters. It’s not logical.”