Murders a warning to Mexican social media users
15 Sep 11

The butchered bodies of a young man and a woman were found on Tuesday hanging from freeway overpass in Nuevo Laredo, Taumalipas on the US-Mexico border. Two hand-scribbled cardboard placards were left beside the bodies as a warning for Twitter and Facebook users reporting violent incidents online and through social media networks. The women’s body had been disembowelled and the ears and fingers were symbolically mutilated.

“This is going to happen to all of those posting funny things on the internet,” one sign said. “You better (expletive) pay attention. I’m about to get you.” The placards listed two specific sites which track drug crime Al Rojo Vivo and Blog del Narco and according to a spokesman from the state attorney’s office, the signs accused the unidentified victims of denouncing drug-related violence. The note was signed with the letter Z, suggesting the murders were the work of the Zetas, the organised crime syndicate which controls large parts of Taumalipas.

Maria Elena Meneses, social media expert at the Tecnologico de Monterrey, said that this new attack underscored the importance that social media has in Mexican regions with drug related violence. “People tweet and use Facebook in these areas because they feel abandoned by local government officials who cannot provide them with security, and the local news media which cannot inform,” she said. “To tweet is to mitigate uncertainty.”

A 2010 study on media and violence by the Fundacion de Periodismo de Investigacion (MEPI) found that the news media in the city of Nuevo Laredo exercised 100 per cent self censorship. In one incident, on the day that a mass grave was found with the bodies of 72 migrant workers, the Taumalipas daily El Mañana chose to run a front page story about a woman beating her young daughter instead. As drug cartels silence the press, locals have turned to social media to hear and share the news, an option it its clear that organised crime is now keen to shut-down.