Egypt's Morsi had Twitter, the generals had the tanks

As the Egyptian leader was ousted by the military, he and his allies live-tweeted their side of the events. Now the world can read these tweets, because of Twitter's new translation tool.

Dara Kerr Former senior reporter
Dara Kerr was a senior reporter for CNET covering the on-demand economy and tech culture. She grew up in Colorado, went to school in New York City and can never remember how to pronounce gif.
Dara Kerr
2 min read
Mohamed Morsi's Twitter page. Screenshot by Dara Kerr/CNET

By now it's almost cliche to note Twitter's involvement in breaking geopolitical news. The service has become so widely used globally, that it's almost expected to be part of any big story.

Even so, it was fascinating to watch Mohamed Morsi's use of the medium as he struggled to retain his presidency -- even after the Egyptian military officially declared him to be unemployed.

In the days leading up to his fall on Wednesday, Morsi and his comrades sent out a series of tweets, some defiant, some pleading, and all negating the legality of the president's takedown by Egypt's military.

This is Morsi's final tweet posted on Tuesday:

The official Egyptian presidency page was even more active in the lead-up to Morsi's ouster. Earlier today, it tweeted a quote from Morsi saying, "For the sake of #Egypt and for historical accuracy, let's call what is happening by its real name: Military coup." And then later it tweeted, "Pres. Morsy urges civilians and military members to uphold the law & the Constitution not to accept that coup which turns #Egypt backwards."

Typically, many of these tweets would be understandable only to those who read Arabic. However, Twitter began testing a Bing-powered English translation tool on Morsi's and other prominent Egyptian's accounts, so that users worldwide could understand what they were tweeting during these historic moments.

"As part of our experiment with Tweet text translation, we've enabled translation for some of the most-followed accounts in Egypt," a Twitter spokesperson told CNET, "so people around the world can better understand and keep up with what's happening there."

Included among the notables is Morsi, of course, along with prominent opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei and Arab Spring activist Wael Ghonim. Twitter has also created a list of people to follow who are actively tweeting what's currently happening on the ground in Egypt.

Even though the novelty of Twitter live-broadcasting news seems to have worn off a bit, it appears that new features like the translation tool can help keep the world's breaking events fascinating on the social network.