Student ‘twitters’ out of Egypt jail

Description: James Buck, a graduate student from the University of California-Berkeley, was in Mahalla, Egypt, covering an anti-government protest when he and his translator Mohammed Maree were arrested April 10. On his way to the police station, Buck took out his cell phone and sent a message to his friends and contacts using the blogging site Twitter.

Tools Used for the Action: Twitter

Outcome: Within seconds, colleagues in the United States and his blogger-friends in Egypt – many of whom had taught him the tool only a week earlier — were alerted of the arrests. Twitter is a social-networking blog site that allows users to send status updates, or “tweets,” from cell phones, instant messaging services and Facebook. Buck sent only one message with his cell phone – “Arrested.” Buck’s friends started to write regular updates on their blogs about his arrest, as they weren’t sure how long he was going to be able to communicate with them. Fortunately, he was able to continue to send updates, and his entries set off a chain of events that led to his college hiring a lawyer on his behalf. Buck was released from prison the next day, and sent another update saying “Free.” However, his translator, Maree, was transferred to another police station, and has not been heard from since. There are conflicting reports from the Egyptian government about whether Maree was freed and his whereabouts. Buck has now started another campaign on his Twitter page as a way to find Maree.

“James’ case is particularly compelling to us because of the simplicity of his message — one word, ‘arrested’ — and the speed with which the whole scene played out,” said Twitter co-founder Biz Stone. “It highlights the simplicity and value of a real-time communication network that follows you wherever you go.”

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