Mexicans accused of terrorism for spreading rumors on Twitter spark new law to limit expression on social networks

Two Mexicans accused of terrorism and sabotage for posting false rumors over Facebook and Twitter were freed Sept. 21 after spending a month in jail, reported Reuters.

Soon after the charges were dropped, María de Jesús Bravo Pagola, accused of spreading false rumors over social networks, said, "I didn't win, the freedom of expression won," reported BBC Mundo.

Known to the twitterati as "#twitterroristas", Bravo, a radio commentator, and Gilberto Martínez Vera, a math teacher, are considering pressing charges against the eastern Mexican state of Veracruz, Javier Duarte and the state attorney's office for damages, reported the website Animal Político.

The same day the two were freed, the Congress of Veracruz approved a bill criminalizing disturbing the peace through mass media. The crime is punishable by four years in prison and a fine of up to $2 million to anyone who "uses any type of media to falsely claim the existence of attacks using explosive devices, firearms, or chemical, biological or toxic substances that could cause damage to human health that disturbs the peace," reported the newspaper La Jornada.

The bill's approval set off a flurry of criticism over social media networks challenging its constitutionality. "What does it say when on the same day you approve the #LeyJavierDuarte (Javier Duarte Law) there are 28 dead bodies in plain site in the tourist area of Veracruz?" tweeted journalist Daniel Moreno, editor of the website Animal Político.

There is already a law in the southern state of Tabasco punishing the distribution of false rumors, while other states like Coahuila and the state of Mexico have similar statutes for social media.

Click here to follow a Knight Center Twitter feed about restricting freedom of expression on social networks.