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Google and Other Tech Companies Officially Enter the Fray In Egypt

By Kevin Coleman — Defense Tech Cyberwarfare Correspondent

Over the weekend Google, SayNow and Twitter worked together to create a Speak2Tweet service.  This service automatically takes voice mails left via traditional phone lines, cellular phones and even satellite phones and translates them into text that can go out and be posted as tweets. Not surprisingly, many of the voice mails are in Arabic and provide commentary about the ongoing events in Egypt. Google established the following three numbers +16504194196 or +390662207294 or +97316199855 to facilitate this communication.  It is important to note that these same numbers can be used to listen to tweets as well.

Google posted on its blog, “Like many people we’ve been glued to the news unfolding in Egypt and thinking of what we could do to help people on the ground. 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.” Google also said, “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.”

This service is just the latest option being made available to Egyptians to circumvent the Egyptian government’s efforts to restrict communication and block the Internet (as of this writing, Internet service has apparently been restored in Egypt). This is a very interesting event. Looking at this from a theoretical perspective the following questions come to mind. Is Google a patriot for the defense of free speech and the Internet? Did Google just provide a cyber weapon for use by the protesters in the civil unrest? If you were looking at this from Mubarak’s perspective it might look that way. Could Google’s action make themselves a target for cyber attack from the Mubarak government? Would the U.S. government defend Google if the Mubarak regime were to retaliate and launch a cyber attack for their support of the protesters via Speak2Tweet? Now take it up a level and ask those same questions and apply them to any conflict that might occur around the world. This shows the complexities that are all too common in the realm of digital conflict and we need to think through scenarios like this now before they happen or happen again.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

SJE February 2, 2011 at 6:49 pm

If the US supports Google’s attempts to encourage freedom of expression, I think Wikileaks would be very happy to argue that they are doing the same.

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Brian Black February 3, 2011 at 6:40 am

The importance of the internet to the current protests is probably being over-stated.

The percentage of people who are regularly online is likely quite low, and I’ve heard reports that organizers were relying on leafleting and going door-to-door to spread the word. While the Muslim Brotherhood will be using Friday prayers to garner support.

Historically, I don’t think the net or Twitter had much to do with either the ’89 Romanian revolution or the ’56 Hungarian uprising.

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Joe Boyum February 3, 2011 at 6:58 am

Not to many people have read The Prince I take it. Rational self interest is the primary motivation when it comes to politics and economics regardless of geography.

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