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.
The analysts have identified a half dozen Twitter accounts seen as must-follow sources on the latest development in the drug war.
— Risky reporting —
From the greater safety of anonymity with no bylines, these “social media curators” spend as much as 15 hours each day gathering information about particularly horrifying acts of violence.
“They have a lot of visibility in these cities but they try to stay anonymous,” said Monroy Hernandez, who interviewed the curators and found that most are ordinary citizens reporting on crime for altruistic reasons.
One curator who only gave her name as Claudia said: “It’s as if I had a new beat covering social media covering the urban warfare that we are currently experiencing.”
The epidemic of drug violence that has claimed more than 70,000 lives in Mexico since 2006 has made this one of the most dangerous countries for journalists.
Since 2000, 86 journalists have been killed and another 18 have gone missing, according to Mexico’s Human Rights Commission.
The rise of social media reporting is a result of “the role of the press as a provider of information being hampered, the increased pressure it finds itself under, the lack of protection afforded journalists — and the dangerousness of the drug traffickers,” said Octavio Islas, director of strategic digital communication at the Monterrey Institute of Technology.
Despite their efforts to stay in the shadows, some bloggers have faced the wrath of drug gangs.
A government official who works in the intelligence field said cartels have ways to access information, intercept phone calls and determine the identity of a site’s administrator.
In September 2011, the decapitated body of a 39-year-old mother of two was found in Nuevo Laredo, which borders the United States.
Next to her body, police found a keyboard and a note explaining that she was killed for her online writing about organized crime.
A few days earlier, the bodies of a man and a women — both bloggers — were found hanging from a bridge in Nuevo Laredo.
The victims were correspondents “who regularly sent us information,” said a woman who goes by the name Lucy and who edits “El Blog del Narco,” which publishes stories, graphic photos of headless bodies and videos about the daily violence.
Lucy was forced to flee to Spain after the disappearance of her partner, who had been in charge of maintaining security for the site.
She used online posts from journalists, police, soldiers, taxi drivers, housewives and even members of the crime gangs, all of whom provided photos, videos and other documentary evidence of the heinous drug trafficking business.
Another blogger uses a Facebook page, “Valor de Tamaulipas,” to report on one of Mexico’s most crime-plagued states.
Crime syndicates offered nearly $47,000 for information about the blogger, but the page’s administrator has refused to stop posting about crime.
Trump unravels over Ukraine call in extensive thread– then blames Democrats
President Donald Trump continued to unravel over the call he had with Ukraine on July 25.
"This Scam going on right now by the Democrats against the Republican Party, and me, was all about a perfect phone call I had with the Ukrainian President. He’s already stated, NO PRESSURE! Where is the Whistleblower, or the 2nd Whistleblower, or the “informant?” All gone because their so-called story didn’t come even close to matching up with the exact transcript of the phone call. Was it a Corrupt Adam Schiff con? Why didn’t the IG see this? When do we depose Shifty Schiff to find out why he fraudulently made up my phone call and read this fiction to Congress and the American People? I demand his deposition. He is a fraud, just like the Russia Hoax was, and the Ukraine Hoax is now. When do the Do Nothing Democrats pay a price for what they are doing to our Country, & when do the Republicans finally fight back?"
Trump is furious over news coverage of Mick Mulvaney’s flub — and he’s growing ‘increasingly frustrated and agitated’
President Donald Trump is watching Mick Mulvaney going down on cable news, said one political analyst on CNN Sunday. The criticism of the chief of staff came after Trump spent the weekend watching media coverage of Mulvaney's flub, the network reported.
"Trump has voraciously consumed news coverage about Mulvaney and has become more agitated," the source said according to the report. "Specifically, the President is concerned, according to the source, that Mulvaney is not transitioning enough to the role he is in now -- helping to lead the impeachment inquiry defense from the West Wing."
Trump lashes out at Pelosi for going to Jordan to fix his Syria flub
President Donald Trump tweeted his anger about Speaker Nancey Pelosi (D-CA) taking a delegation of leaders to Jordan to meet with those working on Syria.
"Pelosi is now leading a delegation of 9, including Corrupt Adam Schiff, to Jordan to check out Syria. She should find out why Obama drew The Red Line In the Sand, & then did NOTHING, losing Syria & all respect. I did something, 58 missiles. One million died under Obama’s mistake!" Trump tweeted Sunday.
Vice President Mike Pence went to Turkey last week to attempt to negotiate a ceasefire, but what he ended up with was 120-hour freeze on bombing Kurds.