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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Weird news - Prosecuting and sentencing people for posting on social networking sites

In recent times, social networking sites, derided initially as tools of no consequence, showed their power by their usage in the attempts to overthrow governments of many countries, including the attempts in Egypt, Syria, China, Libya, and many others. Some of these attempts were successful, others were unsuccessful. In some countries, the governments actually tried to shut down internet and mobile services in order to prevent the mobilization that happens with these services. But one thing was true; these social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, were extremely popular in galvanizing and organizing people, and played a major role in the protests by people.
Social networking also was widely used in the recent riots in Britain, thus showing even societies that were supposedly people friendly could face turbulence from the power of social networking. As a result, there is an increasing trend to prosecute people for their opinions expressed online, whether these be through blogs, facebook or through Twitter. Consider the following case where people are sought to be prosecuted and jailed for their twitter feeds (link to article):

A former teacher turned radio commentator and a math tutor who lives with his mother sit in a prison in southern Mexico, facing possible 30-year sentences for terrorism and sabotage in what may be the most serious charges ever brought against anyone using a Twitter social network account.
Prosecutors say the defendants helped cause a chaos of car crashes and panic as parents in the Gulf Coast city of Veracruz rushed to save their children because of false reports that gunmen were attacking schools. Gerardo Buganza, interior secretary for Veracruz state, compared the panic to that caused by Orson Welles' 1938 radio broadcast of "The War of the Worlds." But he said the fear roused by that account of a Martian invasion of New Jersey "was small compared to what happened here."
"Here, 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 told local reporters. The charges say the messages caused such panic that emergency numbers "totally collapsed because people were terrified," damaging service for real emergencies.

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