Geopolitical games between countries have a clear tendency to cause “collateral damage” – ordinary people – either directly, or, very often, the harm is to their livelihoods and careers.
In other words, little people get trampled on, routinely, and with near-absolute disregard.
Hey @awscloud if you ban all the Iranian devs from using AWS, and then other cloud companies follow suit, then where the heck are they supposed to run their proxies and VPN servers to bypass censorship and access the free and open web? #Keepiton pic.twitter.com/we8UcfKQ1E
— Nima Fatemi #AbolishICE (@mrphs) August 3, 2019
“The US politicians should take a real hard look at this and ask themselves how the world is gonna react and look at them, the next time they bring up human rights abuse claims against any country,” Nima Fatemi writes on Twitter, among a series of tweets, questioning the nature and the effect of the policy of sanctions the United States is implementing against Iran.
But the next time will likely just like the last.
After a previous deal broke down, US President Donald Trump's administration started applying its “toughest ever” sanctions – promising that ordinary Iranians would not be affected.
However – as the likes of Amazon, GitHub, GitLab, and Slack all adhere to trade sanctions and ban – that doesn't seem to be likely.
“Hey @awscloud if you ban all the Iranian devs from using AWS, and then other cloud companies follow suit, then where the heck are they supposed to run their proxies and VPN servers to bypass censorship and access the free and open web?,” one of Faemi's many tweets dedicated to the subject asks.
There's more possible controversy here than just the decision to implement sanctions. It would seem that tech companies are over-zealous in blocking developers and making their lives miserable. Thus, Amazon and it's cloud service (AWS) is exempted from sanctions, one of the messages says, citing US Treasury's General License D-1.
You might not know it, but Amazon runs basically half the internet on their cloud platform. Now they're cutting off the lifeline of Iran's liberal opposition in a misguided attempt to please—far beyond what the law requires—one of Amazon's biggest customers: the US Government. https://t.co/SWjHLxv9JI
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) August 6, 2019
Microsoft-owned GitHub, meanwhile – who positioned itself as the global leader in hosting code, often free and open source – is preventing users in Iran and several other countries and regions targeted by US sanctions from accessing their accounts.
“News outlet ZDNet reported about a Russian developer living in Crimea whose GitHub account had been restricted, for instance. Hamed Saeedi Fard, a developer based in Iran, wrote in a viral Medium post that his GitHub account was blocked without any prior notice or the option to back up his data.
Interestingly, the restrictions are imposed based on a user’s location — by tracking their IP address and payment history — instead of validating their nationality and ethnicity, GitHub said on its website, where it mentions that Cuba and North Korea are also facing the U.S. sanctions.”
This comes even if users are hosting their code as part of GitHub's free service, with no financial transactions attached – which should, according to GitHub's own rules, be allowed even under the regime of sanctions.
The argument of people opposed to such application of US trade sanctions like those in place against Iran is that they undermine the idea of fighting censorship in tech and associated services and ordinary people's free speech.
And if the goal of any sanctions ever was to advance such things as democracy and freedom of speech – that, of course, would be a valid and strong argument.
In the meantime, US-based cloud companies are making the lives of developers in some of the world's most troubled regions additionally difficult.