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Egyptians find loophole to government web blackout

Text by Sébastian SEIBT

Latest update : 2011-02-01

Hosni Mubarak succeeded in shutting down the Internet in Egypt, but Google and Twitter are backing the protesters. The two companies have established a system that allows users to post messages on the microblogging network.

Egyptian Web users just got some heavy-weight support. On Monday night, Twitter and Google established a system that allows users to continue posting 140-character “tweets” despite the Internet shutdown in Egypt.

The solution proposed by the two Internet giants is called “speak-to-tweet” and allows people to publish updates on the famous microbloggins site by leaving a message on a voice mailbox. The service is free of charge, with Google offering users three international telephone numbers (in the US +16504194196, in Italy +390662207294, and in Bahrain +97316199855).

The speak-to-tweet twitter feed

The news is especially welcome for Egyptians, since Tuesday has been qualified as a turning point for the anti-Mubarak movement that has rocked the North African nation in the last week. Demonstrators were aiming to draw a million people into the streets of Cairo, and as many in Alexandria.

The regime, for its part, is trying its best to restrict Internet access. American Internet monitoring company Renesys reported that Monday night at 8:30 pm, Noor, Egypt’s last Internet provider, abruptly stopped working. Egypt therefore found itself 100 percent cut off from the online world when it woke up Tuesday morning.

Morse code and telephone as weapons against silence

The digital code of silence imposed by Egyptian authorities has not, for the moment, prevented the savviest Web users from going online and flooding Twitter with messages about the situation in Egypt. They are doing so by turning to dial-up, or telephone, modems, which offer a slower connection than ADSL or cable, but one that is nevertheless strong enough for publishing a 140-character message.

All the user needs to do is dial an international number to reach a modem in another country. A list of numbers to dial in order to connect to the Internet this way has been published online.

Morse code and radio messages also have been used by Egyptians to communicate with the world outside their country. Meanwhile, the site of Web activists We Rebuild transcribes the transmissions heard on various amateur radio stations in Egypt.


Date created : 2011-02-01


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