Google launches English-Persian-English translation tool
June 19th, 2009 - 10:50 UTC by Andy Sennitt

Google Inc has released a tool that translates Internet blogs, news articles and text messages from English to Persian, and vice-versa, in a move the firm said will “improve access to information” amid the turmoil and media restrictions following Iran’s disputed election. The move is the latest example of the growing role that consumer Internet technology is playing in the wake of Iran’s most serious political unrest since the Islamic revolution 30 years ago.

Google announced in a blog post that Persian, or Farsi, as Iran’s most commonly-spoken language is sometimes called, is now the 42nd language available in its online translation service. The service automatically translates text from Web sites, blogs and email messages from English to Persian, and from Persian to English.

Google Principal Scientist Franz Och, who heads Google’s translation group, said in an interview with Reuters that given the recent events in Iran it was a “natural idea” to help people get access to information and to communicate. “This tool will improve access to information for people inside and outside”, Iran, said Mr Och.

Google was already working internally on adding Persian to Google Translate, but the team accelerated the product roll-out in light of the current situation.

With foreign journalists barred from leaving their offices to cover the street demonstrations, Internet technology like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter have become vital tools for keeping people informed inside and outside of Iran. Mousavi supporters have organized rallies by posting messages on microblogging service Twitter, and videos alleging to show on-the-ground scenes of violence and protests in Iran have found their way to video website YouTube despite the Iranian government’s efforts to quash such online activity.

Earlier this week, the US State Department contacted microblogging service Twitter and urged the company to delay a planned upgrade that would have cut daytime service to Iranians. The State Department stressed to Twitter officials the service’s importance as a communication tool, a State Department official said.