Egypt is offline – is Google just cashing in?

01.02.2011 - El Cairo - Radio Netherlands

Anybody in Egypt that has access to either a landline or mobile phone can call an international number that connects them to a voice-mail service. Here they can leave a short message. This audio message gets transferred to Twitter and labelled with #egypt. From then on, the world can listen in.

So why are these two businesses helping Egyptians who are being stopped from speaking to the world? *“For Twitter, the answer is simple”*, says Web Wereld journalist Andreas Udo de Haes. *“Twitter is all about freedom of speech. That is its core business. Unlike Google, Twitter does not have offices all around the world. It doesn’t need to comply with regulations of national governments. This is the opposite for Google. They do need to answer to local laws.”*

Since announcing its intent to comply with Chinese internet censorship laws, Google China has been the focus of controversy. Now Google seems to be choosing to side with ‘the people’. It’s true that things in Egypt are a bit different from China. After all, it’s not unlikely the current Egyptian regime will be gone fairly soon. Google doesn’t seem eager to speak out publicly, but it is making an effort to help the unheard protesters in Egypt.

*“It sounds great, but how many people will actually use this service”, Mr. Udo de Haes wonders. “I think the amount of media attention on this topic is more impressive than the usage of Speak To Tweet. I would not be surprised if Google realises this as well. After all, the positive PR could be as important as giving the protesters a voice.”*

**The numbers to call from Egypt:**


Categories: Middle East, Politics


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