FEATURE14 August 2013

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Impact

Could social media analytics help Mexicans steer clear of cartel violence?

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Do you trust what you read on Twitter? When word spreads of a celebrity death or some other piece of scandal, do you take it as gospel from the first tweet you see – or do you go in search of verification from a trusted source; the TV news maybe, or the next day’s papers?

But what do you do when those trusted sources have been cowed into silence; when the only people you can turn to are other people like you? Except you don’t know who they are. They’ve been scared into hiding their identity for fear of reprisals. And the information you need to verify isn’t trivial. It could be a matter of life or death. Someone’s tweeted that an army convoy is heading your way, and a gun battle might be about to break out – and you certainly don’t want to wait to find out that it’s true.

That’s the situation in Mexico. The brutal, ...