MEXICO CITY (AP):Mothers rushed to pull their kids out of school, shopkeepers slammed down their metal gates, and bus drivers radioed one another about streets to avoid after rumours of shoot-outs and gunmen travelling in a caravan in a Mexico City suburb began circulating on social networks.
The false reports of violence and impending attacks in Nezahualcoyotl soon included nearby suburbs and at least one borough in the capital, spreading panic and prompting police to take to the streets in force while officials turned to Twitter, television and even hand-distributed flyers to deny the rumours.
Twitter and Facebook are often used to warn of gunbattles and other dangers in Mexico's violence-wracked cities, but the last two years have also seen social networks used to spread false warnings that have caused chaos in several cities. Mexico City has avoided large-scale violence, although drug-related killings and other crime have hit some of its suburbs, like Nezahualcoyotl.
"They told us an indoor farmers market had been set on fire and we went to check - and nothing, it was working fine. Then someone else called to report a bank on fire and we also went - and nothing," a Mexican police official said.
According to the official, the rumours first began spreading on Twitter and Facebook late late Wednesday.
Last Thursday, several schools suspended classes, some businesses remained closed and pedestrian and motor traffic declined as the rumours gained strength.