Kuwait will prosecute two of its citizens over Twitter posts

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Twitter's famous fail whale

Kuwait has arrested two of its own citizens for Twitter posts critical of the Kuwaiti, Saudi, and Bahraini royal families, a Kuwaiti security official confirmed today. Nasser Abul and Lawrence al-Rashidi are in police custody and awaiting court appearances. They will remain in detention for at least two more weeks, when their hearings are scheduled. Abul, a Shi'ite Muslim, is charged with inflammatory criticisms of the Sunni rulers and royal families of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, while al-Rashidi has defamed his own country's emir.  

The move is the latest in the continuing trend of controlling governments reacting harshly against its citizens' use of social media. Egypt famously shut down its internet during its government-toppling protests earlier this year; China has banned Facebook and Twitter following riots in 2009. Earlier this year, Bahrain detained a man for posting online an image of what appeared to be Bahraini forces using torture on a prisoner; that man has not yet been brought to trial, and it is unclear whether he has been released or will be tried.

Incumbent ruling families of countries in the area are understandably wary of the use of social media during this tumultuous Arab Spring, as the Western press has consistently highlighted the use of sites like Twitter and Facebook as organizational tools by protesters in Egypt and Libya. This case, however, appears to go beyond self-preservation, tiptoeing into pointless censorship of free speech. I wouldn't expect a reaction from the President or NATO, but this is certainly a story to watch in the coming weeks.