GitHub Restricts Developers in Iran and Syria Following U.S. Sanctions

Posted on July 29, 2019 by Mehedi Hassan in Cloud, Dev, Microsoft with 26 Comments

GitHub users in Iran, Syria, and Crimea had access restricted to their own code over the weekend. The reason? U.S. sanctions.

Microsoft’s GitHub has started introducing new restrictions for developers in Iran, Syria, and Crimea following restrictions placed by the U.S. government. “It is painful for me to hear how trade restrictions have hurt people. We have gone to great lengths to do no more than what is required by the law, but of course people are still affected. GitHub is subject to US trade law, just like any company that does business in the US,” GitHub CEO Nat Friedman said on Twitter.

Friedman acknowledged the restriction after a viral Medium post criticised the company for blocking developers out without any warning, or providing developers with the option to backup their data beforehand. TechCrunch reports that the restrictions are placed on private repositories and paid accounts, meaning users with a private repository will either have to turn it into a public repository or have the repository disabled forever.

That is obviously not very convenient, but GitHub really doesn’t have any other choice as it’s simply following the U.S. trade laws. Friedman insisted that the restrictions were put in place based on a developer’s current residence and location, and not on nationality after the company was alleged to be discriminating against developers from these areas. GitHub is even providing developers with an appeal form in case they believe their account has been wrongfully restricted. It’s not allowing developers to use VPNs to get around the restriction, though.

“We’re not doing this because we want to; we’re doing it because we have to. GitHub will continue to advocate vigorously with governments around the world for policies that protect software developers and the global open source community,” Friedman later tweeted.

GitHub users from Iran and around the world are protesting against the restrictions, with some requesting GitHub to allow them to export private repositories without having then need to turn them into public repositories for privacy reasons.

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