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Twitter post gets student out of jail

07 May, 2008
By Allison Orr

An American student has used the social networking tool Twitter to help get him out of jail in Egypt.  James Karl Buck, a masters student at the University of California, was in Egypt photographing an anti-government protest when he and his translator were arrested.  Authorities claimed he was inciting a riot.

On his way to the police station, Buck sent a message on his mobile phone using Twitter, to contact his friends and colleagues in the US and alert them to what had happened.

Twitter is a free service that allows you to send a message, or "tweet", of less than 140 characters via the web, mobile phone or Instant Messaging.  Buck’s message consisted of only one word:  "arrested".  Buck was able to continue to send messages every couple of hours providing updates of his situation.  His colleagues in the US were able to contact the US Embassy and their actions eventually led to his college sending a lawyer to bail him out of jail.

Ironically, Buck was in Egypt to study how Egypt’s new leftists are using the blogosphere, and found out about the protest in the first place via a twitter message.

Buck is now using Twitter to try to find out what happened to his translator, who was transferred to another jail when he was freed.  Buck admits that the Twitter message helped his contacts start to work for his release, but he says it was more the power of the network he had as an American that enabled him to be released so quickly.

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