Storytelling by Twitter: two Mexicans successfully convinced their community that a kidnapping was going on. So say local police, who arrested the authors after a panic.
Gilberto Martinez Vera, 48, a private school teacher, and Maria de Jesus Bravo Pagola, a radio presenter, were accused of spreading false reports that gunmen were attacking schools in the south-eastern city of Veracruz.
The resulting panic caused dozens of car crashes after parents rushed to save their children from schools across the city and jammed emergency telephone lines, which “totally collapsed” under the pressure.
Once again digital storytelling partakes of the hoax tradition:
Gerardo Buganza, the interior secretary for Veracruz state, compared the ensuing chaos to Orson Welles’s spoof news broadcast War of the Worlds in 1938. The two are facing charges under terrorism laws.
“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,” Buganza said.
The charges, which said that phone lines “totally collapsed because people were terrified” are the most serious charges to come from using Twitter to incite violence or chaos.
I don’t have access to the tweets, but can easily imagine how this worked, based on other examples of Twitter-based storytelling: the live-ness of serial feeds, the ways we have learned to infer personal worlds from 140 characters or less, the power of well-chosen verbs.