Two weeks ago, Mexican drug cartel the Zetas warned all “Internet snitches” to beware, saying that the cartel had their eye on them. The warning was accompanied by the hanging dead bodies of a man and disemboweled woman who had committed the crime of saying too much online.
Marisol Macias Castaneda was a newsroom manager for the newspaper “Primera Hora” but had also used the alias “Laredo Girl” to post on “Nuevo Laredo en Vivo,”a site that features tip hotlines for the Mexican army, navy and police and has a tip room where people can report the location of drug gang lookouts and sales points. Her body was found on a major road with her head resting on a large stone, and a handwritten message that read:
Nuevo Laredo en Vivo and social networking sites, I'm The Laredo Girl, and I'm here because of my reports, and yours. ... For those who don't want to believe, this happened to me because of my actions, for believing in the army and the navy. Thank you for your attention, respectfully, Laredo Girl ... ZZZZ.
Mexico’s drug cartels have long waged war against the media, intimidating local news outlets with kidnappings and killings so they do not report on the violence taking place.
Seventy-four journalists have been killed in Mexico since 2000, according to Mexico’s Human Rights Commission.
But as civilians have begun to report drug violence online, the cartels have responded with a vengeance.
Many people have started to use Twitter and Facebook, the nation’s hotlines, or watchdog Web tip rooms to notify others about dangerous areas to avoid.
This kind of reporting comes with risk of retaliation by the drug cartels, but it also runs of risk of spreading confusion. Last month, rumors about gang attacks in the city of Veracuz spread on Twitter led to panic, and two people were arrested and accused of “terrorism and sabotage.”
Largely, though, online reporting has proved to be a viable — and anonymous — alternative to news outlets to get out information about drug violence. And citizen reporters say the retaliation by drug cartels shouldn’t be a reason to stop.
“Enough! If we shut up today, we will have lost the ground that we have gained,” a Twitter user who went by @QuestoyQuelotro wrote earlier this month. “This is the time to show what we are made of.”