By Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN
September 8, 2011 -- Updated 1012 GMT (1812 HKT)
(CNN) -- One Mexican state's tough stance on Twitter posts couldhave a chilling effect on social media throughout the country, analysts say.
After false rumors about school attacks spread on Twitter and Facebook and caused real-life chaos on the streets of thecity of Veracruz, state prosecutors accused two people of terrorism and sabotage for their posts. The charges could put the suspects behind bars for up to 30 years.
The pair's attorney is asking afederal judge to block the state's case, arguing that local authorities are abusing their power and violating free speech rights. Some free-speech advocates and fellow social media users have criticizedthe government's reaction, arguing that the possible punishment does not fit the crime.
Officials have defended their approach, saying the suspects should be punished after irresponsible actionsonline sparked widespread fear in the port city.
"Social networks are an excellent way to communicate, but sadly there are cowardly people who hide behind them only to hurt," Veracruz Gov. Javier Duartesaid in a Twitter post after announcing intentions to pursue terrorism charges against the suspects last month.Fallout from fake Twitter reports
The August 25 posts spread rapidly on Twitter andFacebook. One claimed that five children were kidnapped. One mentioned bomb threats. Another described a helicopter firing gunshots at an elementary school.
Parents panicked, rushing to rescue theirchildren from schools they feared were under attack. Traffic jammed and cars crashed.
Gerardo Buganza, interior minister in Veracruz state, said the accused confessed that they sent messages "to generateterror, which they ultimately did."
But several experts say the state government's harsh response could stifle social media, an increasingly common way to communicate about violence in Mexico at a...