Sanctions get smarter about software

The Linux penguin will crush your secret police.Earlier this year I wrote about SourceForge, the popular repository of open-source software, banned users from countries such as Syria and Iran because it was afraid of violating US sanctions.

Lo and behold, these sanctions have just been modified to allow services like sources to provide unfettered access. From the BBC:

The US treasury department has eased sanctions on Iran, Cuba and Sudan to help further the use of web services and support opposition groups.

US technology firms will now be allowed to export online services such as instant messaging and social networks.

Companies had not offered such services for fear of violating sanctions.

Opposition supporters in Iran used social networking sites and services to organise protests after the country's disputed presidential poll last year.

I know what you're thinking: "This Arabist blog has amazing influence over the Obama administration. Can he get me a visa?"

Well, no. Credit should go to the Syrian open source activist Abdelrahman Idlbi, who flagged the issue on ArabCrunch.

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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.