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Mexicans turn to social media to report on drug war

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Posted June 26, 2013

They tweet and blog about street gunfights and murders in Mexican regions plagued by the drug war, keeping people informed about gangland crimes which local newspapers are too afraid to report on.

With traditional media often intimidated by drug cartels, social media has given Mexicans a way to stay appraised about the dangers lurking in their towns and cities.

“They are killing like crazy! There’s a shootout in the Lazaro Cardenas neighborhood. Steer clear of that area,” read a warning tweeted by a writer in the northern city of Monterrey, the country’s industrial heart now beset by drug violence.

Monterrey, which has found itself caught in the crossfire in a turf war between the Zetas and the Gulf cartel, is just one city where reporting on drug crime is moving to social media.

Analysts from Microsoft.com, led by Mexican researcher Andres Monroy Hernandez, followed for 16 months the Twitter activity of people in Monterrey, Reynosa, Saltillo and Veracruz—all cities heavily affected by drug cartels.

Their report, “The New War Correspondents: The rise of civic media curation in urban warfare,” noted a prevalence of words like “bomb blasts,” “gunshots” and “gunmen” on the microblogging site between August 2010 and November 2011.

Just one-third of Mexicans have access to the Internet, and only 20 percent of them write daily on Twitter.

But in the four cities studied by Microsoft.com, there are “twice as many retweets” than in US cities like Seattle, Monroy Hernandez told AFP.

The study found that the day with the heaviest Twitter activity was on August 25, 2011, when alleged members of the Zetas torched the Casino Royale of Monterrey, leaving 52 people dead. Pictures from the deadly attack and names of victims were shared 7,000 times.

Read more at: Phys.org

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