MediaShift on the Free Alaa movement

Mark Glaser has an interesting article on the web activism around Alaa and the techniques used to attract attention to his cause:

So after Alaa’s detention on May 7, the reaction from the blogosphere and other activists around the globe was swift. They created a multi-faceted campaign to free him and bring attention to his plight in a way that fit with his tech-savvy personality. The Global Voices blog set up a special wiki , which lists all the ways people are promoting his release online and offline. Anyone can edit the wiki to add their own activity or ideas.

So far, there’s been a Flash animation , an online petition (signed by 1,100+ people so far), badges to post on websites and blogs, and a special Wikipedia entry . People have even tried a Google bomb strategy, where they link the Free Alaa blog with the word “Egypt” so that Google searches for Egypt will pull up the blog. It hasn’t worked well so far, but the idea is innovative.

As DemoBlogger points out on the Free Alaa blog: “The total cost of launching a global human rights campaign using digital tools: $0. The total time needed to launch a global human rights campaign using digital tools: 24 hours.”
The article has some great Alaa quotes in it. On the morning he was arrested, I received a long email from Alaa after I'd asked him a technical question a few days beforehand. It was, as usual with Alaa, passionately geeky and impatient with ignorance about technology. It was also, I think, the first PGP-encrypted email I've ever received. At the bottom was his signature, which I'll have to ask him about when he gets out: "Alaa: Husband of the Grand Waragi Master."
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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.