Twitter Helps Free Arrested Blogger James Karl Buck

When James Karl Buck and his translator, Mohammed Maree were arrested in Mahalla, Egypt while covering an anti-government protest he whipped out a quick one word blog post.

“Ärrested.”

That quick posting using Twitter from Buck’s cell phone quickly had bloggers and friends spreading the word within seconds.

Buck had only been using the micro-blogging site for a week after being taught about it from the same colleagues that sounded an alert when Buck was arrested.

Hossam el-Hamalawy, a Cairo-based blogger at UC-Berkeley, used his blog to spread the word about Buck. Surprisingly the police did not remove the young man’s cell phone when they placed him in a cell.

“Usually the first thing the police go for is the detainees’ cameras and cellular phones,” el-Hamalawy said. “I’m surprised they left James with his phone.”

Twitter has been used during natural disasters for activism and journalism although it is mostly a social networking tool.

Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter, says that Buck’s arrest and the use of the tool in natural disaster just goes to prove how valuable it really is.

“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,” Stone said. “It highlights the simplicity and value of a real-time communication network that follows you wherever you go.”

Buck was at the protest working on his master degree’s thesis. He was covering the events of Egypt’s “new leftists and the blogosphere.”

When he was alerted by Twitter about a planned protest in Mahalla dealing with the rising food prices and decreasing wages on April 6. On April 10 the American returned to Mahalla where the protests were still going on. He knew there was a risk of arrest so he kept his distance from the protest. He and his translator had a bad sense and tried to escape. During their attempt they were detained.

He used Twitter quickly to insure that he wouldn’t just disappear as others have during similar arrests. Buck knows that his contacts from Twitter were a large reason that his stay in the Egyptian jail was only a day long. His translator Maree though wasn’t as fortunate.

While Attiya Shakran, press counsel for the Egyptian Consulate in San Francisco has said that Maree was released on April 13 there has been no sign of the man.

Buck continues to use Twitter to keep Maree’s plight updated.

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