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The New Defense Against Despotism: Text Messaging

By Melissa Lafsky
Apr 17, 2008 7:03 PMNov 5, 2019 8:43 AM


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Michael Arrington at TechCrunch reports that an American journalism student has been "saved" from jail in Egypt by using Twitter, the trendy “micro-blogging” site that lets people send micro-meaningful text messages to all their ostensible friends. UC Berkeley graduate student James Karl Buck found himself in hot water when Egyptian police arrested him, on no charge, while he was photographing a demonstration. Buck wasted no time in text messaging the word "Arrested" to his Twitter network of 48 people. Some of Buck's Twitter followers proceeded to contact his school, the United States Embassy, and various media outlets to let them know what had happened. Buck was still in jail and Twittering the next day, but he was released shortly after. Egypt is hardly known for its freedom of the press, and while there's no concrete evidence that the Twitter messages were directly, or even primarily responsible for Buck's release, the quick mobilization that the technology created couldn't have hurt. And, given that Twitter seems to have enslaved 50,000 people in a universe of digital updates, it's only fair that it free at least one of them.

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