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Cyber Sanctions: “Freedom” the American way

US government has recently asked Sourceforge to deny content to certain countries, including Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Syria and Sudan. This means that users in these countries trying to post or access content on Sourceforge will get a big 403 error. Here is what Sourceforge is saying about it, although not happy but they don’t seem to have a choice:

Since 2003, the SourceForge.net Terms and Conditions of Use have prohibited certain persons from receiving services pursuant to U.S. laws, including, without limitations, the Denied Persons List and the Entity List, and other lists issued by the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security. The specific list of sanctions that affect our users concern the transfer and export of certain technology to foreign persons and governments on the sanctions list. This means users residing in countries on the United States Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanction list, including Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria, may not post content to, or access content available through, SourceForge.net. Last week, SourceForge.net began automatic blocking of certain IP addresses to enforce those conditions of use.

This move will only divide the open source community and will not achieve anything. There are other ways to access content through mirrors and other project hosts; and people will be forced to use anonymizers etc. to hide their identity. But will the US government stop Microsoft, Apple etc. to sell their applications to businesses in these countries? I doubt that. So why target Open Source alone? And what is next? denying free email and web hosting services?

On a more serious note, we all know that most of the affected countries are poor and belong to the third world, so it will just push the users towards piracy. It also means that Internet and WWW are still not global and have a lot of American influence. The US seem to have their own definition of freedom, which just serves the US interests with hypocrisy written all over it. On one side US is trying to battle the Chinese censorship on Google and on the other hand they are doing the same thing by denying people services, which are licensed to be free for all.

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