New (Audio-Tweet) Service Allows Egyptian Voices to Be Heard

They’re audio-tweeting in Egypt! Yeah! (Sandeep, get on this bandwagon, quick!)

“And the number is growing,” he said, raising his voice to be heard on the recording.

Unedited, raw, anonymous and emotional, Egyptian voices are trickling out through a new channel that evades attempts by the authorities to suppress them by cutting Internet services.

A new social media link that marries Google, Twitter and Saynow, the voice-based social media platform, gives Egyptians three phone numbers to call and leave a voicemail, which is then sent out as a recorded Twitter message. The messages are at twitter.com/speak2tweet.

The result is a story of a revolution unfolding in short bursts. Sometimes speaking for just several seconds, other times for more than a minute, the disembodied voices convey highly charged moments of excitement or calm declarations of what life is like in the Arab world’s most populous country as it seeks to overturn the rule of its leader.

The messages rolled out as Egyptians seemed to be approaching a crucial point with hundreds of thousands of people crammed into central Cairo on Tuesday as protests continued to demand the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak.

Protesters have sought to use social media like Facebook and Twitter to muster momentum for attendance at demonstrations even as the Egyptian authorities have shut off Internet access.

“Urgent news,” one man said. “The police have changed to serve the people. We are very happy.”

On speak2tweet it was not immediately clear whether all of the callers were phoning from inside the country. But support for the uprising in Egypt crossed borders.

“I live in Jordan,” said one man, urging on the demonstrators in a crackly recording. “I want to congratulate Egyptians on their popular revolution.”

Another man, speaking for several seconds, introduced himself as an Egyptian engineer named Wael. Without a trace of irony in a message that could potentially be heard by millions, he voiced dismay over cuts in the Internet.

But no Internet connection is needed for speak2tweet, the developers said in a statement on Monday. The numbers to call to leave messages can also be used to hear them. The numbers are +16504194196; +390662207294; or +97316199855. The service will instantly send the recorded call as a Twitter message using the hashtag #egypt.

“Like many people, we’ve been glued to the news unfolding in Egypt and thinking of what we could do to help people on the ground,” said a joint statement on Monday posted by Ujjwal Singh, the co-founder of SayNow and AbdelKarim Mardini, Google’s product manager for the Middle East and North Africa.

“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,” the statement said. “We hope that this will go some way to helping people in Egypt stay connected at this very difficult time. Our thoughts are with everyone there.”

 

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