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Google And Twitter Step In To Let Egyptians Tweet By Voice

Google (NSDQ: GOOG) and Twitter have launched a service to allow people in Egypt to send Twitter messages by leaving a voicemail on a specific number after the last internet service provider in the country saw its access cut off late on Monday.

The new service, which has been created by co-ordination between the two internet companies, uses Google’s speech-to-text recognition service to automatically translate a message left on the number, which will be sent out on Twitter with the “#egypt” hashtag.

Ujwal Singh, cofounder of SayNow and Abdel Karim Mardini, Google’s product manager for the Middle East and north Africa, said in a blog post that “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 hope that this will go some way to helping people in Egypt stay connected at this very difficult time.”

Google listed three phone numbers for people to call to use the service. They are: +16504194196; +390662207294; and +97316199855.

No internet connection is required. That will be important for users there after Noor Group, which had been the last internet service provider connecting to the outside world, went dark late on Monday. It had remained online after the country’s four main internet providers – Link Egypt, Vodafone/Raya, Telecom Egypt and Etisalat Misr – abruptly stopped shuttling internet traffic into and out of the country last Friday.

At about 11pm local time Monday, the Noor Group became unreachable, said James Cowie, chief technology officer of Renesys, a security firm based in Manchester, New Hampshire which monitors huge directories of “routes”, or set paths that define how web traffic moves from one place to another.

The Noor Group’s routes have disappeared, he said.

Cowie said engineers at the Noor Group and other service providers could quickly shut down the internet by logging on to certain computers and changing a configuration file. The original blackout on Friday took just 20 minutes to fully go into effect, he said. However it is not clear whether the Noor Group’s disconnection was planned or accidental.

Mobile phone service was restored in Egypt on Saturday, but text messaging services have been disrupted during the continuing protests.

This article originally appeared in MediaGuardian.

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