Google and Twitter join U.S. in helping Syrians bypass Internet blackout

By Stephen C. Webster
Friday, November 30, 2012 10:34 EDT
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A gravely wounded child is pulled from the rubble of a building in Syria. Photo: Screenshot via YouTube.
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Search giant Google said Friday that Syrians affected by the country’s ongoing Internet blackout can dial a series of international phone numbers that will connect them directly to Twitter with a service called Speak2Tweet.

The company’s reminder about the service comes just one day after the U.S. State Department said that it has provided Syrians with thousands of communications kits that can bypass the Internet blackout and help rebel factions get the word out about the atrocities being committed by the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

“We condemn this latest assault on the Syrian people’s ability to express themselves and communicate with each other,” State Department spokesperson Victory Nuland told reporters. “It again speaks to the desperation of the regime as it tries to cling to power.”

Video published on YouTube Thursday (warning: *extremely graphic*) by user freedomhalab just before the Internet was completely severed purports to show the aftermath of airstrikes on the city of Aleppo, a rebel stronghold. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an information clearing house run by a Syrian man living in the U.K. who’s strongly opposed to Assad’s regime, told AFP that five children and two women were among 15 allegedly killed in the attack.

The observatory also said that while Internet and cell phone service is completely disrupted in Syria, some land lines were still working — and that’s where Google comes in.

“[T]hose 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,” a post by Google explained.

Meanwhile, pressure is mounting on Assad to step down or face removal by the international community. A 60-nation delegation calling itself the “Friends of Syria” convened in Tokyo on Friday to urge the United Nations to ramp up sanctions on the regime and cut off petroleum shipments into and out of the country. The U.N. Security Council has not taken decisive action to do so due to China and Russia’s refusal to go along.

Despite the international community’s urgings, Assad told Russian state television on Nov. 8 that he would “live or die” in Syria, no matter the cost.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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