Google reactivates Speak2Tweet for Syrian Internet cutoff

A service to broadcast voice messages over Twitter is back up and running as Google tries to sidestep Syria's Net blackout -- but it might not work so well with curtailed Syrian phone services.

Just before 10:30 a.m. UTC on November 29, traffic from the Akamai Intelligent Platform to users in Syria dropped to zero, supporting claims that Internet access to the country had been axed. Akamai

Google and Twitter have restarted their Speak2Tweet service to let people disseminate voice messages over Twitter as a way to sidestep Syria's Internet blackout .

The Speak2Tweet service got its start during Egypt's Internet blackout in February 2011 but has been largely dormant since then. Late yesterday, Google announced on Google+ that it's brought the service back online:

In the last day, Internet access has been completely cut off in Syria. Unfortunately we are hearing reports that mobile phones and landlines aren't working properly either. But those who might be lucky enough to have a voice connection can still use Speak2Tweet by simply leaving a voicemail on one of these international phone numbers (+90 212 339 1447 or +30 21 1 198 2716 or +39 06 62207294 or +1 650 419 4196), and the service will tweet the message. No Internet connection is required, and people can listen to the messages by dialing the same phone numbers or going to twitter.com/speak2tweet.

The illustrates Google's continuing political efforts at maintaining Internet openness. It also has opposed Net censorship in China and last week launched a "free and open" public lobbying campaign to try to preserve today's Internet governance and not cede powers to a United Nations agency called the International Telecommunications Union.

"Some governments want to use a closed-door meeting in December to increase censorship and regulate the Internet," Google said, exhorting people to sign a petition opposing that move.

Companies that offer back-end Internet data-transfer services detected the sharp cutoff of traffic to Syria yesterday. According to Reuters, Syria's minister of information blamed the outage on terrorists, not state actions. But one Internet firm, CloudFlare, said that explanation was "unlikely to be the case."

For one thing, there are four cables providing Internet service to Syria, and cutting all of them at the same time would be difficult, CloudFlare said in a blog post. For another, the nature of the cutoff suggested it was the result of configuration changes to the routers that transmit Internet data into and out of Syria.

"The systematic way in which routes were withdrawn suggests that this was done through updates in router configurations, not through a physical failure or cable cut," Cloudflare said. The company offered a video showing Syrian Net connections being severed.

"We don't believe our role is to take sides in political conflicts. However, we do believe it is our mission to build a better Internet where everyone can have a voice and access information," CloudFlare said. "It is therefore deeply troubling to the CloudFlare team when we see an entire nation cut off from the ability to access and report information."

 

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