Yellow badges are back. This time not by Nazi Germany & not for Jews, but by U.S. tech companies
This article is about legalized discrimination and systematic online segregation to achieve political goals using U.S. tech companies like GitHub
Before you start, GitHub is a good company. In this article, I don’t want to compare GitHub with Nazis. The purpose of this article is to criticize the U.S. government for the concept of isolating Iranian people by forcing tech companies like GitHub to implement restrictions & the “Digital yellow badge” is just a metaphor.
However, I believe GitHub should apologize in an official statement and they should answer questions I asked in this article. If you agree with me please retweet my tweet and help us spread the word.
You can also contribute to this repository to support us as a fellow developer.
Three days ago (Jul 25, 2019) I received an email from GitHub. They blocked my account without any prior notice & without providing any option to download my codes and data. Then I wrote GitHub blocked my account and they think I’m developing nuclear weapons. You should read that article before you start reading this to understand the context.
Little History (or what is Yellow Badge)
Yellow badges are badges that Jews were ordered to wear in public during certain periods, especially in Nazi Germany.
Introducing Digital yellow badge (not for Jews)
Three days ago (Jul 25, 2019), when GitHub blocked my account, I noticed that there is an ugly fixed yellow warning on every single page of GitHub for me (as a blocked user). The warning message had no close button. I want to call it “Digital yellow badge” but this time it’s not for Jews, it’s for people who born & live in countries like Iran.
The warning message on GitHub was so annoying that some developers created workarounds to remove it: Here & here & here & here. Today (Jul 28, 2019) GitHub finally added a close button for this warning.
The Jew yellow badge concept was designed to quickly identify Jews by Nazi officers. During World War II, Jews are forced to live in ghettos and there was systematic segregation.
Today, we are dealing with the same kind of problem but on the internet and not for the Jews.
U.S. government tries to isolate Iranians into what I like to call “online ghettos” and U.S. tech companies like GitHub forced to implement restrictions asked by their government.
One of the most humiliating things about this “online ghettos” agenda is that even the name of my country is not on some country lists in U.S. tech companies web sites and if you ask them why is that? They just probably use “to comply with U.S. laws” thing as an excuse.
Meet “Target them by nationality, block them without prior notice & don’t let them download a backup” method
You may not know it, but GitHub isn’t the first company that used this method against Iranians. Back in December 2018, Slack did it first and then apologized for it.
Nat Friedman (GitHub CEO) said that the recent GitHub restriction was based on residency, not nationality or heritage.
I believe him about not targeting people based on nationality, but two other parts of this method (block without sending a notice & don’t allow to download a backup) are quite similar between Slack & GitHub’s way to apply restrictions.
So the question is: Is it legal? here is Nat Friedman’s answer
So if it’s right, there should be a law that forces GitHub to block accounts without prior notice. and you may remember GitHub support answer for backup requests. She said that they are not legally able to send an export.
But where is that law? because I found nothing about this “Target them by nationality, block them without prior notice & don’t let them download a backup” method in OFAC web site
The Main Questions
These are the main questions, that I think GitHub should answer in an official statement with an apology to Iranian and other restricted developers:
- Why no prior notice?
- Why no backups?
- Who authorized this “discrimination”? and where is the law that legally allows them to mistreat users like this? Does U.S. law really require this?
Although GitHub provided a weird way to get a backup for blocked users, still they have to clear what law forces them because again I found no legal document about this behavior.
But this is just for Iran, right?
You may say: OK. I hear you, but you are living in a sanctioned country. I’m not. so I must be OK? Well, it depends. If the U.S. government decides to put sanctions on your country, this “Target them by nationality, block them without prior notice & don’t let them download a backup” method will hit you too.
The U.S. and China are basically in a trade war. The U.S. considers new sanctions for Turkey, last week Trump said the U.S. will take “substantial reciprocal action” against France for tax on American tech companies and well, there are always some countries in sanctions program.
Now you may say but there are laws. We are open-source community and that mean something. Well, let’s review our options:
The U.S law can ignore GDPR
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a regulation in EU law on data protection and privacy for all individual citizens of the European Union (EU) and the European Economic Area (EEA)
One of the GDPR ideas is “Data portability” which means the user must have an option to export his/her data. both GitHub & Slack implemented this “Data export” feature but they offer it whenever they want to whoever they want.
Take a look at Iranian developers for example. GitHub said that they are not legally able to send a backup. To be fair, today (Jul 28, 2019) they provided a way to export private repositories but not with that “Data export” feature required by GDPR. Of course, I’m not an EU citizen but if GitHub can legally block my account without any prior notice and while having a feature to export data, don’t let me use it to comply with U.S. laws, well, what do you think is going to happen when the U.S. decides to put sanctions for a European country?
The U.S. law can ignore open-source values
When I wrote “GitHub blocked my account and they think I’m developing nuclear weapons” I tweeted that GitHub owes me and open-source community an answer. because you know, this act of “discrimination” is totally against Open Source values
Nat Friedman mentioned GitHub efforts to protect the open-source community but the bottom line is they have to comply with U.S. laws
I Have a Dream
I say to you today, my friends, though, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream.
That was part of Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, but you know as an Iranian software developer, I have a dream too: I have a dream today … I have a dream that one day we will break these online chains without any of those “Digital yellow badges”