Grad Student Uses Twitter To Get Released From Egyptian Prison

from the twitter-pr-people-must-be-thrilled dept

Recently, Tim wrote about how aspects of Twitter could represent the future of news, and it appears that may be happening faster than some people expected. In a story that must absolutely thrill any PR person working for Twitter, a UC Berkeley grad student who was filming protests in Egypt was able to alert his friends to the fact he was arrested by Egyptian police through a message on Twitter. This resulted in a coordinated effort to get him released, which eventually involved the US State Department. You get the feeling that this story will move into PR legend like the story of the guy who self-diagnosed a heart attack using Google.

Still, it is a rather remarkable example of how Twitter can be quite useful. While there are plenty of people (myself included at one point) who wrote off the service as being rather useless, it’s been evolving in very interesting ways. For those who embrace it, it can become a rather useful quick and easy public messaging and conversation tool. While, James Karl Buck could have sent a text message to a friend, the simplicity and public nature of Twitter allowed him to alert a lot of people nearly instantly to the situation he was in — and they responded. Not only did they reach out to get help, they also quickly responded to James on Twitter, providing advice on how to deal with the fact that he was arrested. Still, what’s not entirely clear in this whole story is how he was able to continue to use his mobile phone while under arrest. While the lesson some may learn from this is that arresting officers will quickly take people’s mobile phones away, that doesn’t lessen the impact of a service like Twitter and its ability to spread a message to a lot of friends and acquaintances extremely quickly.

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Comments on “Grad Student Uses Twitter To Get Released From Egyptian Prison”

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Alimas says:

Re: Well...

Wow and where is this short opinion taking us?
Wheres the brilliance shared in this little quip going to lead us to? To better opinions? To critical analysis? To the store?

If you have a perspective or opinion that will enhance the conversation: enlighten us.
If you don’t have anything worthwhile to say: shut up.
If you don’t like the blog: don’t read it.

Its pretty simple.

Dyse says:


So, what’s to stop the Taliban(sp?) from using Twitter to coordinate their efforts against our troops? Or is that who we’re fighting? I can’t keep track anymore. But the point is that information can be used in many ways. I support free speech, the right to bear arms, ect. But we still have to be realistic as to what the potential of such powerful weapons and concepts are.

moe says:

Re: Really?

Um, are you serious? I have a bad feeling you are.

Let’s play a game. I’ll remove “Twitter” from your statement and replace it with something else. Hopefully this will help you realize how ridiculous your statement was.

-So, what’s to stop the Taliban(sp?) from using Email to coordinate their efforts against our troops?

-So, what’s to stop the Taliban(sp?) from using Instant Messaging to coordinate their efforts against our troops?

-So, what’s to stop the Taliban(sp?) from using Websites to coordinate their efforts against our troops?

-So, what’s to stop the Taliban(sp?) from using Telephones/Cell Phones to coordinate their efforts against our troops?

-So, what’s to stop the Taliban(sp?) from using the postal service to coordinate their efforts against our troops?

Noah Callaway says:

Re: Really?

Is your first reaction to a service: “Can the terrorists use this against us?”

Let me be the first to say I don’t give a flying rat’s ass what the terrorists are doing. Why? Because they want me to care. The whole point is to invoke *terror*. Well, if I’m not afraid of them, if I don’t change how I operate in the world then they fail.

If I react to Twitter with the reaction: “could a terrorist someday use this against me,” then their objective is already accomplished. They’ve won the political capitol they needed.

Oh, and anytime you ask “can a terrorist use this against me,” the answer is yes. Someone who’s clever can use anything you put in front of them against you. Who cares?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Really?

Nail on the head right there.

Never mind the potent to the right to bear arms is for you to be able to protect yourself, specifically against “tyranny.”

Look into the etymology of the word. Perhaps you’ll learn something, though the way you knee-jerk into worrying about what the “terrorists” will use it for hints you won’t.

9/11 was a tragedy. Always is when lots of people, specifically civilians, are killed. The funny part is the “terrorists” only killed a few thousand people and destroyed a few buildings.

All the *real* terror inducing activities have come from our Government in response to it. I could spout a list, but since I’m too lazy to link to multiple sources at the moment it’d just make me look like a liberal/democrat (which I’m not, though I admit sometimes my ideas coincide with theirs. Same is true about conservatives/republicans so go figure).

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re:

So, someone used some service called twitter to alert people to the fact he was arrested. The difference between twitter and email is what? A website with a fancy name?

Not quite. Unless you’ve used Twitter for a bit, it’s almost hard to explain, but what makes Twitter work so well is two-fold: first, it’s more instantaneous, a la, instant messaging — so people are alerted to new things much faster. Email is a “slower” mechanism.

Secondly, being able to *broadcast* a message on Twitter takes seconds. Sending an email from the phone takes time. You need to pick the recipients, you need to write the email. With Twitter, there’s just an empty box and it’s immediately blasted to all your friends.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re:

If he still had his cell phone, wouldn’t it have been just as effective to call a friend and say “I’ve been arrested”?

First, that would have been more obvious to those who had arrested him. Second, that would have only alerted one person, not all of the people following him who could immediately spring into action.

It’s the difference between a broadcast message and a one-to-one message.

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