GitHub starts blocking developers in certain countries facing US trade sanctions

GitHub bans users in some countries facing US trade sanctions

As chief executive of the Microsoft-owned firm said, due to the U.S. trade restrictions, GitHub prevents users in some countries from accessing portions of the service. These countries include Iran, Syria, Crimea and other sanctioned nations. 

About GitHub

Founded on February 29, 2008, by Chris Wanstrath, PJ Hyett, and Tom Preston-Werner, GitHub now is becoming the world’s largest host of source code. It provides code hosting services that allow developers/people to build software for open source and private projects in organizations. It also designs and develops an online platform to allows users to store and share codes repositories with friends, co-workers, classmates, and complete strangers. 

GitHub has a strategic partnership with International Business Machines Corporation. Its headquarters is in San Francisco in California. 

GitHub bans users in some countries due to the U.S trade control

GitHub bans users in some countries facing US trade sanctions

After Microsoft-owned GitHub “restricted” the account of a developer based in some countries, there’s a debate over free speech taking place.

In term of the company, GitHub CEO Nat Friedman wrote on Twitter, “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 the law requires. But of course, it still affects people. GitHub is subject to US trade law, just like any company that does business in the US.”

“At the same time, GitHub’s vision is to be the global platform for developer collaboration, no matter where developers reside. As a result, 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. 

Similarly, Slack, one of the world’s largest community services, also has to shut down the accounts of users who have visited Iran. In addition, Friedman said GitHub has enforced new restrictions to prevent users in sanctioned countries from accessing private repositories and GitHub Marketplace. This action of the company also prevents these developers from maintaining private paid organization accounts.

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What does this mean to developers in sanctioned countries

Inability to access some of GitHub’s services

Anatoliy Kashkin, a 21-year-old Russian citizen who lives in Crimea, received the restriction announcement from GitHub a week ago. As he reports, his website, which is hosted on GitHub, now returns a 404 error. He also can’t create new private GitHub repositories or access them. Even though his website could easily be moved to another hosting provider, it is still some difficulties for his work on GameHub, which has an established audience on GitHub.

“GitHub has many useful features and it’s safe to assume that many people interested in GameHub already use GitHub,” said Kashkin.

“Discoverability is also a very important factor. I don’t think many people will find GameHub on a self-hosted server somewhere and I don’t think many of them will report issues there either,” he added.

Another victim of this block, Hamed Saeedi, a developer based in Iran, has posted that “GitHub blocked my account and they think I’m developing nuclear weapons”. He also says that GitHub blocked all Iranian accounts.  

The rule of this restriction

According to TechCrunch, GitHub restricted based on a user’s location. GitHub will track the IP address and payment history of users instead of validating their nationality and ethnicity. On the GitHub website, it said that Cuba and North Korea are also facing the U.S. sanctions. 

Developers, who are considering a workaround by using VPNs (virtual private networks), the company point out a possibility. That fact is that it will prevent people in U.S.-sanctioned countries “from using IP proxies, VPNs, or other methods to disguise their location when accessing services.” 

Some Github services are still available and the solution

Certain services of GitHub such as access to public repositories will remain available to everyone. In a statement, the company said: “This includes limited access to GitHub public repository services (such as access to GitHub Pages and public repositories used for open source projects), for personal communications only, and not for commercial purposes.”

There is a recommendation for banned users to use other hosting services. You can consider some hosting services such as GitLab or Atlassian, which runs the BitBucket Git service. The company also offers for developers intending to store export-controlled data, a self-hosted virtual appliance. It can be run within users’ own data center or virtual private cloud.

In case you think that GitHub block you wrongfully, you can fill out an appeal form. You have to provide a copy of your government-issued photo ID to prove your current residence. Besides, a selfie is also needed to signal GitHub’s step toward imposing real-name identity check.

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