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Venezuela: Twitter Users Arrested on Charges of Spreading Rumors

(July 14, 2010) Two individuals charged with “the dissemination over the social network Twitter of false rumors for the purpose of destabilizing the national banking system…and causing runs on banks,” were arrested on July 8, 2010, in Ciudad Bolivar, Venezuela, by officers of the Scientific, Penal, and Criminalistics Investigations Corps (CICPC). (Venezuela: Two Detained for Disseminating Bank Takeover Rumors on Twitter, CORREO DEL CARONI ONLINE, July 9, 2010, Open Source Center online subscription database, No. LAP20100709073001; Twitteros en la mira del Gobierna [Twitter Users in Government's Crosshairs] [in Spanish], CORREO DEL CARONI ONLINE, July 9, 2010, http://www.correodelca,com_wrapper/Itemid,174/?id=156968
.) Luis Enrique Acosta Oxford, 41 years old, and Carmen Cecilia Nares Castro, 35, could face an 11-year prison sentence for the Twitter posts that began on March 9, 2010, and allegedly spread rumors about bank takeovers. The CICPC confiscated a cell phone and other electronic devices during a search it conducted in connection with the arrests. (Id.)

According to Wilmer Flores, National Director of the CICPC, the arrests would serve as an example to persons who spread rumors on Twitter and “[a]ny individual who propagates ill intentioned rumors through any medium is committing a crime and is answerable for it to the appropriate authorities.” (Id.) The CICPC invoked Venezuela's law on banks in making the arrests. The law states, “anyone spreading false news or using other fraudulent means that could disrupt the banking system…shall be penalized with a prison term of 9 to 11 years” (art. 448). (Id.; Ley General de Bancos y Otras Instituciones Financieras [General Law for Banks and Other Financial Institutions] [in Spanish], Decree No. 1526 of Nov. 3, 2001, Central Bank of Venezuela website,