Does death equal silence in Mexico’s drug war?

The killing of a fourth blogger believed to have posted information about Mexican drug cartels online may have had its intended chilling effect.

“Twitter, the only risk is you lose your head,” Gianni Tzingas tweeted as Mexicans reacted to Wednesday’s brutal slaying.

The decapitated body of a blogger known as Rascatripas was found next to a statue of Christopher Columbus in the border city Nuevo Laredo on Wednesday.

Two months ago, at the same spot, the body of a woman known as Laredo Girl was found. She posted anonymously on the same site as Rascatripas (“Scraper,” or, literally, “Fiddler”).

Rascatripas, the fourth such victim since September, was found with a message written in white paint on a blanket that he had been killed for “failing to understand I must not report on social networks.”

“Remember Rascatripas as you take your free speech for granted,” Rob Andras posted on Twitter.

Wednesday’s killing followed a week in which the hacker group Anonymous had threatened to go after the cartels if a member they claim was kidnapped was not released by Los Zetas, the cartel that has claimed responsibility for the first three social media killings in Nuevo Laredo.

Anonymous backed off that threat late last week. A member has since posted a video saying it would go after the Mexican government, which it says is often corrupt and in collusion with the cartels.

“looks as if cartels got the message after the#anonymous square off. blogger gets done in,” @delsnafu tweeted.

Indeed, the cartels have grown increasingly sophisticated in their efforts to track down online critics. In some cases, the cartels have recruited hackers. In other cases, the cartels bribe government officials to give them access to militray-grade Internet tracking systems, Bloomberg News reported Wednesday.

But some Mexicans vowed to keep pressing forward with the campaign to share information about the cartels online. Blogs and Twitter threads have become a place for Mexicans to share information about the cartels as the mainstream media has become a less reliable source of information, either because of threats or bribes aimed at reporters.

“Mexicans know how to…report online,” José Manuel Reyes tweeted. “Must be hundreds of thousands even, we need not fear.”

The online posters crowdsource information about the cartels, ranging from allegations about officials who are working with the cartels to simple eyewitness accounts of armed gunmen in a certain section of a town.

“It’s a way of saying, ‘Here and no further. Even if you kill us, even if you kidnap us, we aren’t going to disappear,’ ” Javier Valdez, who writes for Río Doce, a website chronicling cartel activity in the Pacific state of Sinaloa, told Bloomberg.

Photo by ilyaginzburg

Dave Copeland

Dave Copeland

Dave Copeland is a tech reporter whose work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, and ReadWrite. He teaches journalism at Bridgewater State University.