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Carlos Miranda Levy

NEVER HELP: engage, enable, empower and connect, Relief 2.0 / Markets of Hope

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Is Google's Voice-to-Twitter service launch in Egypt a foreign intervention in a domestic conflict?

At the height of the protests, Mashable reported that "Google Launches Voice-to-Twitter Service To Help Protesters in Egypt".

Love the initiative... however it raises so many questions (love all of them):

Does this count as corporate intervention in a foreign domestic conflict?

Should Google be considered as a business or is it time we qualify them as a "State" and therefore in violation of the UN General Assembly's 36/103 Declaration on the Inadmissibility of Intervention and Interference in the Internal Affairs of States?

Google is a private publicly traded company with business interests in the region and the country and the outcomes. Its business is hurt by the Egyptian's government control of access to the Internet. Is it ethical to intervene in a conflict (domestic, international or third party) when you have a business interest in the outcome?

Does this mean that Google is supporting Egypt's "freedom fighters"?

We've been playing with the notion of "corporate states" for so long -- and Google's budget and impact is significantly larger than more than half the countries in the planet... perhaps this is the perfect opportunity to analyze its implications...

If the enabling technology for citizen journalism came from an open source movement, we wouldn't have these questions... but it is Google and they have a business interest in the outcome.

In any case, I think it's great what they are doing, and better to intervene with social media and twitter than with guns and money that ends up in the hands of guerrillas, arm traffickers and drug dealers...

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    Feb 19 2011: "Domestic conflict"? This excuse has been used by spouse-beaters or child abusers to prevent intervention to protect their victims. How can there be something wrong in helping people resist violence? Where we should be asking questions is about why other governments have intervened for the past thirty years by supplying the dictators with weapons, training and cash, to enforce "stability" against the rights and wishes of the people in those countries.
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    Feb 15 2011: Great questions, and instead of cheerfully accepting the right of open-source movements to do the same we might consider the activities of Wikileaks, the anti-globalisation movement, or Greenpeace in the same light too.

    You might ask the same of TED as well. Spreading great ideas is all fine and dandy, if you're not the Catholic Church facing Martin Luther or a nineteenth century businessman whose employees have been reading pamphlets written by Karl Marx. TED's great ideas are intrinsically destabilising to the status quo, they wouldn't be great otherwise. How many disruptive ideas have been boosted by exposure on the TED stage? How much criticism has been aired of individuals or organisations that have agendas which clash with the speakers' vision of how things should be?

    TED is a revolutionary organisation. And every time money or support is given to a cause, that cause is strengthened in its struggle against something or someone. Education reform, mentioned a lot on TED = an attack on the repressive regime of schools, cheered on by Sir Ken the Revolutionary. Larry Lessig's attack on copyright laws is a blow against entrenched privilege on behalf of the last free humans. And so on.

    I'm not criticising TED, I just don't think that Google is necessarily the right target. After all, they've also been criticised for complying with Chinese censorship requirements. A bit of positive publicity by siding with the little guy in the fight against oppression may help the bottom line but it's not really indicative of a moral stance. I think they're just interested in making money, whereas TED is advocating action.
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    Mar 3 2011: Google's 'voice to Twitter'?? I didn't know such a thing existed. Thanks for the heads-up. I take it that means you can phone-in your Twitter report. Cool. I'm glad Google is on our side. I see that FaceBook is selling some of their client info. Let's hope Google can avoid those pitfalls and keep the faith.
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    Feb 16 2011: Interesting questions !
    There is no doubt in my mind that social networking, whether Twitter, facebook or others, increasingly influence, if not shape politics.
    Personally I think that's good. The social networking platforms have no own opinion or political goal, but offer a voice to people who under other circumstances probably couldn't make them heard.