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Mexican press under seige; the value of social media?

August 16, 2010

Televisa stations in Monterrey and Matamoros have been bombed.  The LA Times is reporting on “narcocensorship” in Reynosa and journalist kidnappings in Durango. Things seem to be spiraling downward quickly.

Something to note from the LA Times article: Social media have helped fill the void created when the local press does not report on trafficking-related violence, but they have also been hijacked by the narcos, who spread false rumors and incite panic. Could the anonymity and speed of social networks be turned against them? Will we see repressive governments spreading misinformation in the same way? I’ve been reading “Here Comes Everybody”, by Clay Shirky, who is careful to point out that the potential of new technologies is always ambivalent – it can be employed for infinite ends with no inherent moral boundaries. Nonetheless, his overall tone is celebratory, and the examples he chooses are almost always positive – resistant flash mobs in Belarus, for example. Meanwhile, the mainstream press goes wild for Iranian tweeters and the like. I’m fairly confident that, as a result, popular opinion holds social media to be positive for democracy. This is one of the few reports I’ve seen where organized groups have used social media for criminal ends.

UPDATE: COHA has posted a research brief on social media in Latin America. There’s good information there, but the article is perhaps overly celebratory. ZDNet, meanwhile, has an article about the flip side of social media in Iran. And then there’s CNN’s report about a Facebook hit list in Colombia.

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