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Death Threat Issued To Mexican Social Media Users

GULF CARTEL / 21 FEB 2013 BY MIRIAM WELLS EN

An extremely violent video released online threatens those who use social media to report on organized crime in Mexico, underscoring the growing significance of platforms such as Facebook as a source of information in the country's battle with organized crime and the terrifying response that often follows.

In the video, a man on his knees -- speaking in a calm voice and flanked by a masked man wearing camouflage and carrying a sidearm -- warns users of Facebook, Youtube and Twitter that their exact location can be tracked (video published below; contains extreme violence). He specifically names the Facebook page Valor Por Tamaulipas, which publishes security updates relating to the embattled Tamaulipas state, telling all social media users to stop their activities for their own safety.

"Please refrain from publishing any information -- if not, this is the price you will pay," the man says, before apparently being shot in the head by the masked man beside him.

One news service that tracks drug trafficking in Mexico, Notinfomex, blamed the Gulf Cartel for the video, but the video's veracity could not be determined. 

Responding to the video, a Valor Por Tamaulipas administrator posted a message on Facebook, addressing followers of the page: "I've said that I will not give up if you will not give up, which means that the pressure will probably keep on increasing, but in the same way that they try to hurt citizens' efforts, the response of the citizenry will make itself seen."

Insight Crime Analysis

In recent years, while the traditional media has been silenced, communities have turned to social media, making these ordinary citizens who run these sites and post on them the new targets. As reported by InSight Crime earlier this month, Valor Por Tamaulipas is one of several sites that issue alerts about violence and crime. On Twitter, hashtags are used to track violence in different locations. Social media provides a forum for information lacking in the traditional press, in which journalists are increasingly resorting to self-censorship to protect themselves.

Northeast Mexico appears to be the epicenter of this battle. The Zetas criminal group is the main suspect in the slayings of three social media activists in Nuevo Laredo in 2011. The attacks led to the so-called "Twitter Manifesto" in which social media users said, "We have been abandoned to our fate in this unequal fight of free citizens against the drug traffickers."  

Even journalists using these methods are not safe, according to a report by released earlier this month by watchdog organization Freedom House that tracked the growing use of online platforms, social networks and mobile devices to report on crime and corruption.

Criminals in Mexico are also taking advantage of the power of social media to attract recruits and spy on potential victims of kidnapping and extortion, according to a 2012 report by the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which said groups used the Internet to glean personal information about potential targets.

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