In an interesting development in Venezuela, the CICPC (equivalent, I think, to the FBI) has made its first arrest of Twitter users: Two people who the agency says tweeted rumors with the intent to destabilize the banking sector by causing a run on banks.
According to a press release, CICPC director Wilmer Flores said:
False rumors on social networks are clearly punished in Article 448 of the banking law. This means that anyone who spreads malevolent rumors via any means, e-mail, text messages from cellular phones, through Twitter, Facebook, or any other technological tool, with their own voice or through any other means of communication is committing a crime and must answer to the relevant authorities.
Noticias24 ran down one of the allegedly felonious tweets, from one Luis Enrique Acosta Oxford, which said, “People, so you can’t say I didn’t warn you, pull your money out of BANESCO today, there aren’t many days left.”
I know, rumors on Twitter. Can you believe it?
This tweet was from June 30, a couple weeks after the government took over (deservedly) Banco Federal, intensifying an already tense situation after the take-over of about a dozen other small and medium-sized banks late last year.
Malicious speech isn’t protected anywhere in the world, and people should learn that applies to Twitter as well. But if you need a special law to protect your banking system’s solvency from the effects of rumors, perhaps the real problem lies elsewhere.