WhatsApp Fake News Lynch Mob Burn Innocent Duo To Death
Ricardo, 21, and his uncle Alberto, 43, became the latest victims of fake news fueled violence when they were burnt alive for a crime they did not commit.
From her home in the U.S., Maria Guadalupe watched her son be burned to death outside the police station of her hometown in central Mexico via a Facebook live stream, as she pleaded with her killers online to spare his life.
Her son Ricardo and his uncle Alberto had been arrested by local police for "disturbing the peace" after the pair traveled into Acatlán for construction supplies.
Unbeknownst to them following their arrest, the duo has become victims of a false rumour spread on the instant messaging service WhatsApp among local villagers, accusing them of being child abductors.
"Please everyone be alert because a plague of child kidnappers has entered the country," the message said, according to the BBC who followed the lynching extensively.
"It appears that these criminals are 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. Their abdomens had been cut open and were empty."
By the time the pair were dragged out of the police station, more than a hundred people were waiting for them outside.
Some had purchased petrol and dozens held their phones up filming as one man rallied the crowd with a loudspeaker.
It has been reported Ricardo and Alberto were savagely beaten by the mob, before petrol was poured on them and they were set alight.
From the U.S., Ricardo's mother left a comment on the livestream of her son's murder in vein.
"Please don't hurt them, don't kill them, they're not child kidnappers," she wrote.
The bodies of the pair were reportedly left on the ground outside the station for several hours.
When their family returned to claim them no one in the town would speak to them.
"Look how you killed them! You all have children! And I want justice for my loved ones!" she reportedly shouted at their funeral.
Local authorities told media that nine people have been charged over the crime, including five who instigated it and four more for carrying out the murder.
Two alleged instigators and the four murder suspects are reportedly on the run.
Local police never accused Ricardo or Alberto of any of the crimes they were killed for.
In recent months WhatsApp, which was acquired by Facebook and now has over 1.5 billion users, has been slammed globally for its role in spreading fake news which has led to a spate of similar incidents.
According to the Washington Post, more than a dozen people have been killed across India since May because of violence fueled by fake news stories of human trafficking and organ harvesting spread on the instant messaging service.
And in Sri Lanka the government was forced to briefly block Facebook in March after a spate of violence aimed at minority groups fueled by the social media platform.
According to Washington Post, WhatsApp issued a statement following a crackdown from the Indian government over the incidents saying it was "horrified" by the violent acts and calling for a joint tackling of misinformation spread by social media platforms.
The instant messaging giant also revealed they would be commissioning research for "exploring issues that are related to misinformation on WhatsApp."
Featured Image: El Sol de Puebla