egipt_sharm_el_sheikh_2_lThis weekend, working with Twitter, Google has set up a voicemail transcription, translation and Twitter relaying service to field calls from Egyptians wishing to get a message onto Twitter, handled automatically and tagged with #egypt, people otherwise mostly stranded without means of sending information about this historic protest to the outside world. They’re calling it speak-to-tweet.

Why bother? According to one of these messages, "The government is spreading rumors of fear and of burglary and of violence. The only incidence of theft and burglary are done by the police themselves." However government employees of any rank may use the system too.

And to our huge Egyptian audience, you may access the Internet’s Twitter by calling +16504194196. Okay, bad joke.

Doug Simmons


  1. not sure how much Google should get involved in this stuff. I mean, it is the overthrow of a government in the end. I know it wasn’t an elected one but we’ve been burned a lot by these. You know, where the ‘election’ leads to results that are bad for our interests and then there’s voting but a bad result. I’m avoiding politics here and not talking in terms of Egypt directly, more of a generalized thing and thinking if it’s a good practice for Google to take sides in this stuff or if they’re better off staying out of politics themselves…

  2. Well for what it’s worth they claim they’re not taking sides, they just think everyone ought to be able to communicate. Google’s been experimenting with rolling out free wifi and broadband to entire American cities. That’s part of their thing, people being online. T-Mobile did something along these lines with Haiti, free calling or whatever. Less controversy behind an act of God but in both contexts you’ve got a large number of people who cannot communicate and a large number of people who want to hear from them and you’re in a position to facilitate that — what’s the problem?

    Still, I hear you.

  3. And they kind of made it clear with the Chinese thing that they’re not afraid to get their hands politically dirty and take some risks, this one being much smaller I’d say.

    Also they’ve got Google Translate, Google Voice for the calling and for the transcription and apparently a healthy relationship with Twitter. Everybody except for a small group of people with bigger problems than this wins.

  4. Haiti is pretty different than this. Ultimately, the reason the gov’t cut off access to the web was because people were using it to communicate plans to overthrow a gov’t. Again, in a bubble here, but that’s generally something most companies want to not get too meddled in. In Egypt it’s clear the gov’t became unpopular but on the scale of what we’ve seen it’s not the worst gov’t…yet many others are still standing. But in the end, they picked sides by subverting the government’s will. I don’t want to make this a Google thing. Any company that acts against the will of a government is getting involved in politics and it’s something they need to be careful with. If the new gov’t is worse than the old gov’t does Google want to be responsible for it being elected?

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