Google, Twitter resuscitate Speak2Tweet for Syrian net blackout

Jessica Stanton Contributor
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Google announced early Friday morning that it has resuscitated its Speak2Tweet service in an effort to allow Syrians to evade their country’s Internet blackout and sent messages through Twitter.

The free service was developed in cooperation with Twitter in February 2011 during the five-day Egyptian Internet shutdown.

Syrians can call four different international numbers and leave a voicemail, which the service will then tweet. Google is promoting the service on Google+ and on Twitter, with the hashtag “#SyriaBlackout.”

Dozens of tweets have already been posted since Speak2Tweet came back online.

Syria’s information minister originally blamed “terrorists” for the blackout Thursday, but freedom activists have claimed President Bashar Assad’s regime is responsible.

One of the four physical cables providing Syrian Internet service, CloudFlare, described the regime’s explanation as “unlikely” in a blog post titled, “How Syria Turned Off the Internet.”

“We don’t believe our role is to take sides in political conflicts. However, we do believe it is our mission to build a better Internet where everyone can have a voice and access information,” CloudFlare said. “It is therefore deeply troubling to the CloudFlare team when we see an entire nation cut off from the ability to access and report information.”

All four cables were simultaneously shut down. Despite nearly 20-months of violent uprising against the Assad regime, the move to cut the Internet and select cellphone service areas in Syria is unprecedented.

In response, U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford said the U.S. has given opposition activists “a thousand pieces of non-lethal equipment — largely communications gear.”

Google has often been a proponent of Internet openness, opposing both cyber-censorship in China and United Nations efforts to regulate the internet.

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