Guns, Drugs and Viral Content: Welcome to Cartel TikTok

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Mexico is set to shatter another murder record, but that grim reality is nowhere to be seen on the TikTok videos that go viral by showcasing drug cartel culture. 

“It’s narco-marketing,” said Alejandra León Olvera, an anthropologist at Spain’s University of Murcia who studies the presence of Mexican organized crime groups on social media. The cartels “use these kinds of platforms for publicity, but of course it’s hedonistic publicity.”

“It’s all about the dream, it’s all about the hustle,” said Ed Calderon, a security consultant and former member of Mexican law enforcement. “That’s what they sell.” According to Falko Ernst, senior Mexico analyst for the International Crisis Group, a global think tank, some of the TikTok videos may be produced by cartel members themselves, especially young hit men or “sicarios” keen to show off the spoils of war.

Drug cartels play a major role in world politics, read more.