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"Twitter terrorists" in Mexico could face up to 30 years in prison

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(CBS) - It all began August 25 when two Veracruz residents posted information about shootouts and kidnappings in town on their social networks.

"I can confirm this, at the Jorge Arroyo school in the Carranza district, five children have been taken away by an armed group. Total psychosis in the area," tweeted Gilberto Martinez Vera, a 48-year-old private school teacher. "He went on to say that he had confirmation of the kidnappings from his sister-in-law whose children attended the school," reports BBC News.

"At the same time, according to the authorities, [Maria de Jesus] Bravo Pagola, a former government official, allegedly wrote that a helicopter had opened fire at another school while the children were on their break," says BBC News.

Although it may seem that the two meant well, their stories weren't true. There were no kidnappings or shootouts, and the warnings on their social networks caused panic in the streets of Veracruz.

There had been general unease already in the area due to recent drug gang violence, and an instance when a gunman tossed a grenade and killed a tourist. "Tensions were also raised after armed convoys of marines were drafted on to the streets in August," explains The Guardian.

Interior secretary of Veracruz likens the ordeal to Orson Welles' 1938 broadcast of War of the Worlds. "There were 26 car accidents, or people left their cars in the middle of the streets to run and pick up their children, because they thought these things were occurring at their kids' schools," Gerardo Buganza said. "The two are facing charges under terrorism laws," reports The Guardian.

If convicted, the pair may do up to 30 years in prison for spreading the false reports. Pagola and Vera claim they were merely passing information that was already circulating.

Human rights groups and civil liberties advocates are calling for the charges to be dropped. "The local chapter of Amnesty International said that the detention of the two was 'unfair and violates their right to justice and freedom of expression,'" according to BBC News.

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