'Twitter Terrorists' Face 30 Years After Being Accused of Spreading False Reports

A teacher and a radio presenter have been accused of sparking mass panic by tweeting false rumors about gunmen targeting local schools in Mexico.

Gilberto Martinez Vera, 48, a maths tutor for several private schools, and Maria de Jesus Bravo Pagola face penalties of up to 30 years jail under the country’s anti-terrorism laws.

The charges may be the most serious ever brought against anyone over use of the social networking account.

The chaos caused dozens of car crashes and emergency phone lines reportedly “collapsed” under the pressure as frightened parents rushed to save their children in the Mexican city of Veracruz, the Guardian reported.

Prosecutors allege that Mr Vera posted a number of messages on Twitter saying gunmen were kidnapping children from local schools.

One allegedly said: "My sister-in-law just called me all upset, they just kidnapped five children from the school."

Ms Pagola has reportedly labelled herself as a “TwitTerrorist” on her Facebook account but lawyers argue their clients were simply passing on information they had already seen online.

The report said state interior secretary Gerardo Buganza compared the incident to Orson Welles's spoof news broadcast of War of the Worlds in 1938.

"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," Mr Buganza said.