Google has responded to the disconnecting of the Internet in Syria with an online campaign to promote its Speak2Tweet initiative as way to give disconnected Syrians a voice online.
(Note: Our initial post suggested Speak2Tweet was being reintroduced, but a Google representative has since explained that it has remained open and active since launch, so we’ve corrected that reference.)
Speak2Tweet was first used in Egypt in February 2011 when Internet access was cut-of in the country, and it allows Web users to send messages to Twitter by phoning a dedicated hotline and, literally, speaking to tweet. As the duo explained last year, each call is automatically turned into a voicemail message, a link to which is tweeted out via the @Speak2Tweet account.
The official Google account on Google+ explains the details:
A little less than two years ago, when Internet access was cut off in Egypt, we worked with Twitter to launch Speak2Tweet, giving the ability for anyone to tweet using just a voice connection.
In the last day, Internet access has been completely cut off in Syria. Unfortunately we are hearing reports that mobile phones and landlines aren’t working properly either. But those who might be lucky enough to have a voice connection can still use Speak2Tweet by simply leaving a voicemail on one of these international phone numbers (+90 212 339 1447 or +30 21 1 198 2716 or +39 06 62207294 or +1 650 419 4196), and the service will tweet the message. No Internet connection is required, and people can listen to the messages by dialing the same phone numbers or going to twitter.com/speak2tweet.
The company has also posted information on Twitter:
— A Googler (@google) November 30, 2012
The Middle Eastern country ‘went black’ yesterday when an estimated 90 percent of Internet connections in the country were cut.
According to the AP, Syrian authorities have blocked Internet and phone signals (the latter of which would impact Speak2Tweet) in the capital city of Damascus, as rebels and government troops continue to clash. However, Syrian information minister told reports pro-government Ikhbariya TV that “terrorists,” not the state, had cut the Internet, Reuters reports.
This isn’t the first time Syria got cut off from the Internet, and the country was almost fully disconnected for 40 minutes in July 2011.
The Cloudflare blog has an excellent account of how Syria’s Internet was cut off, you can read it here. Google’s transparency reports clearly shows the point at which the Internet ceased in the country.
Here’s a reminder of how Talk2Tweet was used in Egypt, where teams of volunteers worked to translate the voicemail messages, which where mainly in Arabic, into text-based tweets in English that allowed the world to understand them.
Image via plenty.r / Flickr