Twitter is rapidly becoming a primary source for many Mexicans on security incidents in their cities, as it allows users, known as “tuiteros”, to quickly spread information through trusted networks. The system has obvious advantages, but is hardly a panacea for citizen security. For more information about difficulty verifying information and the Veracruz government’s reaction to false reports, please visit our Government page.

Common hashtags used to talk about security include #mexicorojo and #balacera, though many hashtags are regionally-based. The geographic focus of the tags makes sense, as followers can track information most relevant to their immediate security needs. Some of these tags include #mtyfollow, #laredofollow, #reynosafollow, #ecatepec, and #edomex.

March 1, 2012
Mexico’s Digital Divide – A Security ‘Echo Chamber?’

Mexico’s internet demographics probably explain a lot about why most of these tags center on urban, wealthier, better-educated areas of the country. As  Dr. Ricaurte (@paolaricaurte) mentioned in her interview with SoMe enVivo, less than 30% of Mexicans have Internet access and 60% of Twitter users live in Mexico City. This may be why substantial information about some of the safer areas of Mexico (Estado de Mexico) would be popping up in these warning-based networks. One possible concern about the small Twitter community is that rather than a means to spread information to create relevant change on the ground, the sphere actually represents a minority of people tweeting about changes that are not necessarily relevant for or do not reflect the beliefs of the population at large. The ‘echo chamber’ effect means that participants sit around agreeing with each other about similar information. Not is new information less likely to make its way into the sphere, fundamental assumptions about the movements are not questioned or re-examined, which means they do not get strengthened.

Demographics might also explain the multitude of tags for Monterrey, a rich industrial city in Mexico’s northeast Nuevo Leon state. Once one of the jewels of Mexico, Monterrey has been caught up in a vicious turf war between rival DTOs as Zetas forces seek to push Gulf cartel splinters out of the state. The city’s deteriorating security situation was symbolized in the Casino Royale tragedy last August in which over 50 people, most of them women, died after criminals set the building on fire because the owner refused to make extortion payments. Monterrey’s relative wealth, combined with an acute need to react to a rapidly changing security environment, makes Twitter an important resource about security information – at least for those with Internet access. Below we can see information about top tweeters for #mtyfollow over the past three days via The Archivist by Mix Online:

March 1, 2012
NGOs in the ‘Tuiter’ Sphere: A Force Multiplier for Individual Tuiteros

The top user is @Cicmty, the Centro de Integración Ciudadana. CIC is a civil society group based in Monterrey that uses pulled social capital to create a proactive trust network to obtain and disseminate security information. The group declares openly that it does not “attack the authorities,” as this would undermine the civic values on which the trust network is based, but focuses on action. In this way, CIC differs from many other civil society groups such as Movimiento por la Paz, who are more directly focused on pressuring government officials to address structural contributors to many of Mexico’s problems. As Dr. Ricaurte pointed out, most groups attempt to create change on security issues by attacking corruption, lack of access to information, and human rights abuses, which divide government and governed, thereby allowing criminals to conquer. CIC, rather than taking these structural issues head-on, seems to be pushing the platform to create a networked public sphere for talking about security in Monterrey. With over 22,000 followers on Twitter and over 2,200 likes on Facebook, CIC’s network is a powerful information-dissemination tool that is a force multiplier for individual tuiteros. The real test will be whether it can leverage its online strength (being well ‘red’) to create real change on the ground.

Kristen has reached out to CIC about how they use the network to spread information, and how they believe this activity will help create positive change in Monterrey, if not Mexico. We are eagerly awaiting their response!


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