Rumours of child abductors were spread on a messaging application, WhatsApp in a small town in Mexico which resulted in the mob burning to death of two people before anyone could validate.
It was reported that this incident began when Ricardo Flores, 21, and his 43-year-old uncle Alberto Flores were taken into custody in the small town of Acatlan, central Mexico, “for disturbing the peace". BBC reported that they had been arrested when they had gone into the town to buy supplies to finish construction work on a well.
However, it was only after they were taken by the police did the rumour spread on WhatsApp. The rumour was that they were kidnappers involved in organ trafficking. “In the past few days, children aged four, eight and 14 have disappeared and some of these kids have been found dead with signs that their organs were removed,” read the message.
While transferring Ricardo and Alberto into the small police station, police assured the mob that the men were minor offenders, not child abductors – but by this point, no one was listening.
The people around quickly got involved; one man climbed onto the roof of the town hall and ringing the bells to alert people that the police were intending to release Ricardo and Alberto. As tensions rose, the mob broke into the prison cell and dragged the two men into the street, savagely beating them before pouring petrol on them. Ricardo and Alberto were then set on fire for everyone to see, with people filming the murders on their phones.
Our assessment is that is with the number of internet users who live in proximity, it is easy for people to converge fast. This is not the first time that rumours of child kidnappers have led to the gruesome death of innocent people. Recently, in the Indian state of Tripura, fake news spread of child kidnappers resulted in the lynching of three people. We feel that such incidents are a sign of present danger as fake narratives can galvanise flash mobs in a few minutes.