Twitter offers automatic translation for high profile Egyptian accounts

Translation intended to extend the platform's use as a news service in times of crisis

Twitter begun testing a new translation tool yesterday to assist the social media platform's use by high-profile figures in Egypt.

The new service powered by Microsoft’s Bing search engine automatically translates tweets and was applied to the accounts the recently ousted Mohammed Morsi, prominent opposition leader Mohammed ElBaradei and Arab Spring activist Wael Ghonim.

“As part of our experiment with tweet text translation, we’ve enabled translation for some of the most-followed accounts in Egypt, so people around the world can better understand and keep up with what’s happening there,” said the company in a statement.

Although online translation is nothing new, the automatic translation of texts within Twitter’s own platform dramatically reduces the friction for individuals attempting to unravel events in foreign countries.

The move also seems calculate to take advantage of Twitter’s ubiquitous presence during unrest in the Middle East. In 2011 the social media service was widely credited with accelerating the downfall of Hosni Mubarak, with similar affects observed during the 2009-10 Iranian election protests, and the 2011 Tunisian revolution.

The recent closure of four Egyptian TV channels including al-Jazeera during the recent Egyptian coup have meant that online channels have become integral for the distribution of news in the country.

A full list, curated by Twitter, of the accounts currently receiving automatic translation can be seen here.