When Egyptian police scooped up UC Berkeley graduate journalism student James Karl Buck, who was photographing a noisy demonstration, and dumped him in a jail cell last week, they didn't count on Twitter. Buck, 29, a former Oakland Tribune multimedia intern, used the ubiquitous short messaging service to tap out a single word on his cellular phone: ARRESTED. The message went out to the cell phones and computers of a wide circle of friends in the United States and to the mostly leftist, anti-government bloggers in Egypt who are the subject of his graduate journalism project. The next day, he walked out a free man with an Egyptian attorney hired by UC Berkeley at his side and the U.S. Embassy on the phone. Twitter, the micro-blogging service for cell phone users, allows messages up to 140 characters long. Twitter users can allow anyone they wish to join their network and receive all their messages. Buck has a large network, so Twitter gave him an instant link to the outside world.
Meanwhile, U.S. friends on his Twitter net called the university and the American Embassy. They also alerted the Associated Press, the International Herald Tribune and other media, which helped put the heat on the Egyptian authorities. He was released on Friday and returned home on Sunday.