A ways back I noted a rather nice story about Israeli and Iranian citizens using the internet and social media
to reach out and express solidarity with one another, despite their governments' differences. I found it rather encouraging that political rhetoric from both sides could be dismissed in favor of a humanist approach, no matter the vulgar generalizations each side might hear about the other. If you weren't already aware, despite the rivalry of the two nations, United States citizens and Iranians have had ways to interact over the internet as well, such as through online gaming platforms like World Of Warcraft. That is, they were
able to do so, until the US government made more noise recently about the sanctions in Iran and Blizzard finally blocked Iranian users.
"I want you!!! ...to enjoy the Mists of Pandaria Persian-free."
CNN has the story of how, due to sanctions against Iran, Blizzard was forced to block gamers from Iran from playing WoW
. Apparently the renewed pressure on trade with Iran resulted in this block.
Last week, a user claiming to be from Iran posted on an official World of Warcraft forum to report that the game was inaccessible. A Blizzard employee responded to the thread on Saturday, writing that "United States trade restrictions and economic sanction laws prohibit Blizzard from doing business with residents of certain nations, including Iran."
"This week, Blizzard tightened up its procedures to ensure compliance with these laws, and players connecting from the affected nations are restricted from access to Blizzard games and services," the employee said.
In a fun little addendum, the Blizzard employee also mentioned that the company is unable to refund subscriptions as well.
You can have your rials back when you pry them from our cold dead fingers...
Image source. CC BY 2.0
Now, perhaps it's just me, but color me confused as to how sanctions against Iran need to be broad enough that online gaming is caught in the mix. Perhaps more importantly, as both parties
like to make a lot of noise about "internet freedom" and its application to broadening freedom and Democracy in nations that enjoy little of both, does this result from our sanctions jive with how our State Department
seems to want to encourage governments around the world to allow open communication through the internet and social media? While I understand the occasional need to punish a bad government through trade sanctions, this particular result doesn't seem to do that at all. Instead, it only cuts Iranians off from those that could tell them how great freedom is.