Citizen journalists in Mexico monitor border safety via Twitter

byNicole Martinelli
Jun 13, 2011 in Social Media

In a country where reporting can be life threatening, people are using Twitter to spread news.

Drug cartels are making Mexico's borders more dangerous than ever. Residents of Northeastern cities like Monterrey, who used to cross over into Texas for shopping jaunts and tourist excursions, no longer felt safe on the roads.

Enter Twitter: Thanks to accounts including @TrackMty, @SPSeguro and @MAGS_SP people can be warned in real time by citizen reporters about risk zones and attacks, according to a recent article in Americas Quarterly.

Melissa Lotzer, who founded City Surveillance Concept in 2010, a network of protection and civil security tips to avoid becoming victims of crime, heads Track Monterrey (@TrackMty). Tweet reports, sent in by anonymous citizens and broadcast over the Track Monterrey account, read like scenes from a war: car burnings, armed assault, shootings as well as where caution is advised along the roads. The Twitter stream has over 40,000 followers.

How well does it work? Blogger Arjan Shahani, who lives in Monterrey, says the citizen news updates work well enough to make driving in those areas feasible.

"In traveling through Laredo with my family recently I felt a bit more protected every time a notification came in from a traveler a few miles in front of me noting that there was no danger ahead. With no hidden agenda and nothing to earn from it, users I have never met such as @Gabsinelli, @labellayellibro and @lacandanosa kept me and my family safe during the trip."

Given how deadly the journalism profession is in Mexico, anonymous reporting over Twitter is an idea whose time has come.

According to a recent report from the Committee to Protect Journalists called the Impunity Index, Mexico's rating worsened for the third consecutive year, with 13 unsolved cases involving murdered journalists, putting it at eighth on the list.

Via Americas Quarterly