Technology

Speak to tweet allows Syrians to contact the outside world

Twitter in Arabic
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Google and Twitter have activated their “Speak to Tweet” (@speak2tweet) service to allow Syrian’s to post messages online, in spite of the country’s internet connections having been shut down.

For the past three days Syrian’s been unable to access the internet, which officials say was cut for “maintenance” reasons.  The US called the move a desperate one by Assad’s government.

The Speak to Tweet system works like an online voice mail system. Users can call one of several numbers and then leave a voice recording or listen to recordings left by other users.

There are four numbers users can call, +902123391447 or +302111982716 or +390662207294 or +16504194196. After that users can leave messages by pressing 1 and listen to messages by pressing 2.

Google wrote on its Google+ profile when it relaunched the service;

“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 Speak to Tweet system was first launched during the Arab Spring protests in Egypt, when the then government cut internet access in order to prevent the public from organising protests.  The system is based on one developed by a company called SayNow, which Google acquired a week before the system’s initial launch in 2001.  Speaking at the time Google said;

“Over the weekend we came up with the idea of a speak-to-tweet service—the ability for anyone to tweet using just a voice connection.

“We worked with a small team of engineers from Twitter, Google and SayNow, a company we acquired last week, to make this idea a reality.

“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.”

The internet blackout in Syria has also affected mobile and landline calls, so it is unclear how effective the system will be.

Google’s Transparency Report, which shows how governments and the public interact with Google’s different services, shows a clear cut in internet communications on November 29 in Syria.

Syria's internet traffic cut
Syria’s internet traffic cut

Access to Google’s services were last cut in Syria on July 19.  Internet research company Renesys says that “all 84 of Syria’s IP address blocks have become unreachable, effectively removing the country from the Internet.”

[Update 5:27 December 1 Renesys reports that Syrian internet has returned with “with Internet service being provided post-restoration by Telecom Italia, Tata Communications, Turk Telecom, and PCCW.”]

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Piers Dillon Scott
Piers Dillon-Scott is co-editor of The Sociable and writes about stuff he finds. He likes technology, media, and using the Oxford comma (because it just makes sense).