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EghtesadOnline: US-based code repository GitHub has curbed access for users from Iran citing US sanctions against the country.

Over the past 24 hours, Iran-based users of GitHub have been receiving emails from the American tech firm that their access to the code repository is being curbed.

The emails reviewed by the Financial Tribune reads as follows, “Due to US trade controls law restrictions, your GitHub account has been restricted. For individual accounts, you may have limited access to free GitHub public repository services for personal communications only.”

The move has been widely criticized by programmers on Twitter, calling it an outright discrimination against Iranians, according to Financial Tribune.

GitHub is where programmers store code for collaborative projects, both open source and private. They can track changes, post bugs, ask questions, etc. 

The tech firm styles itself as “the world's leading software development platform” which, in all likelihood, is not a false claim. 

The ban will take a toll on Iran’s startup ecosystem and the Iranian youths employed in the tech and programming sector.

GitHub’s terms of service read, “You may not use GitHub in violation of export control or sanctions laws of the United States or any other applicable jurisdiction.”

A section titled “GitHub and Trade Controls” on the firm’s website adds, “GitHub’s vision is to be the global platform for developer collaboration, no matter where they reside. We take seriously our responsibility to examine government mandates thoroughly to be certain that users and customers are not impacted beyond what is required by law.”

On Wednesday, Brian Hook, the US special representative for Iran, called US sanctioning technology used for communications in Iran a “myth”. 

In a televised message, Hook said the US does not ban Iranians from using any technologies.

Some users have criticized the firm for taking the matter too far. Many have pointed out that none of the US imposed sanctions against Tehran bars the firm from offering services to Iran-based users.



Overnight Decision

Users have criticized the firm for banning Iranians without prior notice and not giving them a chance to download a backup of their data.

In response to an Iranian user, Hamed Saeedi, requesting for a backup of his data, GitHub wrote in an email, “Unfortunately, we are not legally able to send an export of the disabled repository content. I’m sorry for the frustration here, but GitHub must comply with US export control laws and sanction requirements.”

Another Iranian national living in Helsinki have also been banned from using the service. Seemingly, users’ history of activity is reviewed by GitHub based on their IP’s location over time and those connecting to the service from Iran are being banned.

In response to this user’s complaints, GitHub has sent an email, reading as follows, “Send us a copy of your photo identification (ID) showing where you currently live … Please upload a photo of yourself holding your ID, with the photo side of the ID facing the camera.”



Change of Policy

The company also acknowledges a change in its policy on its website saying, “To comply with US trade control laws, GitHub recently made some required changes to the way we conduct our services. As US trade controls laws evolve, we will continue to work with US regulators about the extent to which we can offer free code collaboration services to developers in sanctioned markets.”

According to the firm, in addition to Iran, the same curbs and limits may be implemented against users from Cuba, North Korea and Syria.

Some Iranian Twitter users have linked the recent change in GitHub’s policy to Microsoft’s acquisition of the firm. In 2018, Microsoft acquired GitHub for $7.5 billion. There is no evidence at hand that proves these speculations.



Not the First Time 

This is not the first time that an American tech firm bans Iranians from using its services. In December 2018, workplace chat app “Slack” deactivated accounts of hundreds of Iranian users across continents, saying that the decision has been made in accordance with US sanctions against Tehran. 

Furthermore, Iranians have been struggling with curbs and limits imposed by Apple Inc. against them for long.

As the news about the slack ban broke in Iran, in an interview with Financial Tribune, a deputy director of Iran’s IT Organization said such unprofessional moves, in addition to the unending hostility, will likely compel users across continents to think twice before subscribing to American companies involved in and living off such business.

Pointing to the mounting pressure from mercurial US President Donald Trump on private companies to end their services to Iran, Information Technology Organization’s deputy for legal affairs, Mohammad Jafar Nanakar, said the legal structure on which these sanctions are premised is thin. 

“As time goes by, the international community will concur that these pressures are illegal and discriminatory. US hostility against Iran and other peoples will certainly make people ponder before enlisting services offered by US technology firms,” he said.

Nanakar believes that the legal framework in which multinational technology firms operate will certainly evolve in the coming years. 

“Such companies are presently bound by national laws. I am certain that in the not-too-distant future, an international legal structure will emerge for regulating activities of these firms and define and safeguard people’s rights.”


Iran US sanctions ban Iran-Based Users GitHub code repository