The discussion about a UC Berkeley student that Twittered his arrest in Egypt and got help from the U.S. Embassy, the media and friends makes me wonder how long it will take to ban Twitter in the Arab world and elsewhere. Sound crazy? Perhaps not. Twitter is already banned in Dubai.
Ero Carrera, a well-known hacker in security circles, posted the following image from Dubai:
Funnily enough, (Twitter) seemed to be reachable through Dubai's airport wifi. Also the iPhone's Twinkle application can get to it, but I guess it's using some API and not accessing the main site.
I think it's the first time I'm in a country blocking a site like Twitter... I'd have thought other sites such as Myspace would also be blocked but apparently aren't.
Don't be surprised if there's a second, third and fourth time. It's becoming increasingly clear that Twitter is quite a way to broadcast things that a government may not want folks to know about.
Is Egypt next? What about China? Twitters from Tibet may be handy.
Put yourself in the shoes of law enforcement folks in Egypt. The Mercury News reports:
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.
Because of Twitter Egypt gets some heat from abroad. What's easier? Stopping arrests of annoying Americans or shutting down Twitter? Bet it's the latter.
Now this may not happen in Egypt's case, but don't surprised if Twitter is put on the blocked site list as its usefulness becomes more apparent.