Recently I discussed the purchase of SayNow by Google – a voice platform company complete with an API. Now, Google has taken the SayNow technology and collaborated with Twitter to allow users to call specific phone numbers to have their voice messages converted to tweets. At the moment there is no speech to text translation and this message for example is in Arabic. But thankfully the person calling also speaks English as evidenced by his mention of “adding pressure.”
The tough thing about controlling the Internet is you have to scramble constantly to keep up with people looking to communicate – even when most of the methods of communications have been disconnected. Many of us have heard that the Internet has been cut off in Egypt and that mobile phones have been as well. The government could always cut off landlines too if they so chose and in theory that would put an end to this service being useful. Satellite users would be the exception of course. The government can also track the callers to the special international numbers Google has set up – and in repressive regimes, that can be a major problem for callers – especially if the protests die down.
This isn’t the most elegant solution to meet the communications needs of the country but it works and it shows that even though this is a US-based solution, the ingenuity of people seeking freedom can indeed be difficult to stop. Remember to what extent students in London used technology – Google Maps, tweets, APIs to track police and other government actions during their protests over tuition hikes after a campaign promise was made that this would not happen. I mentioned it in a post titled The Internet Lubricates Protests. Here is an excerpt:
Technology has already been lubricating protests and has made it far easier to gather others who share a particular point of view using the web and email. And this can be a very good thing – I am a huge proponent of human rights and believe peoples’ voices should be heard.
The question now is will technology aid the rest of the world in gaining their freedom via democracy as well? Jon Stewart thinks not (for what it’s worth) but in this Hyperconnected world in which we live, news travels at the speed of light and it is not out of the question to think that if Egypt transitions successfully to democracy, other countries will eventually follow suit.
And if you disagree, you may want to think again as China is now blocking tweets mentioning Egypt.