Crisis Communciations: Social Media Abuse (Mexicans Face 30-Year Prison Term for Using Twitter to Spread Fear)

The Associated Press today carried a report that 2 Mexicans are facing a 30-year prison term for allegedly using Twitter to spread chaos. In the report, the man and the woman (Gilberto Martinez 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 the city of Veracrus.

As I explained in my research on Crisis Communications in the Era of Social Media, social media has enabled practically anyone with Internet access to reach out to a global audience. Unfortunately, unlike professional journalists who subscribe to a professional code of conduct, these citizen journalists do not. Citizen journalists are therefore free to pursue personal agendas without regards for the consequences.

This is another prime example of the dangers of allowing the unconstrained use of social media. While I am not advocating Government regulation or censorship of social media, I am however advocating that Governments enact laws that will enable them to hold netizens accountable for their actions. Such laws, used judiciously (so as not to infringe on the individual’s right to expression) will then enable Governments to stop blatantly irresponsible actions against the common good.

While I firmly support the right of free speech, I also believe that the right comes with the obligation to use it responsibly. And, if an individual fails in his obligations, he must be held accountable.

(For more information or discussions on crisis communciations in the era of social media, visit

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