February 01, 2011

Google Helps Egyptians be Heard


Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter may be blocked in Egypt as anti-government protests mount, but that hasn’t stopped Google, Inc., from discovering a workaround to help the country’s citizens stay connected.

Working with a team of engineers from Twitter, Google and SayNow, Google has launched a special service that lets people in Egypt send Twitter messages using nothing more than a voice connection. The way it works is anyone can tweet by simply leaving a voicemail on one of these international phone numbers (+16504194196 or +390662207294 or +97316199855) and the service will instantly tweet the message using the hashtag #egypt. No Internet connection is necessary and people can listen to the messages by dialing the same phone numbers or going to twitter.com/speak2tweet.

“We hope that this will go some way to helping people in Egypt stay connected at this very difficult time. Our thoughts are with everyone there,” read a post on Google’s corporate blog this week.

Earlier this week, Harvard University’s Herdict Web monitoring center reported that Facebook has been blocked in Egypt. The Herdict.org, a project of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, lists two reports of the social networking site being inaccessible in Egypt. Protesters have taken to the streets across the country in a display of anti-government rage, partially sparked by the recent revolt in Tunisia. Despite efforts to end the riots with water cannons and tear gas, protesters continue to call for the ousting of long-time president, Hosni Mubarak.

Shortly thereafter, Twitter confirmed that its website had also been blocked in Egypt. "We believe that the open exchange of information and views benefits societies and helps governments connect with their people," Twitter said in a message at @twitterglobalPR.

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Edited by Tammy Wolf



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