GitHub has blocked developers from Iran, Syria and Crimea

29 Jul 2019

Image: dimarik/Depositphotos

In order to comply with US trade sanctions, source code host GitHub has blocked users from Iran, Crimea, Syria and more, company confirms.

GitHub CEO Nat Friedman has confirmed that the company, which is one of the world’s largest hosts of source code, has blocked users from Iran, Syria, Crimea and other regions in order to comply with US export law.

Taking to Twitter on Sunday (28 July), Friedman said it was “painful” to hear how trade restrictions have hurt people and though the firm has “gone to great lengths to do no more than what is required by the law”, it has been forced to ban developers from sanctioned territories.

A handful of GitHub services, such as access to public repositories, will remain available to everyone.

The Microsoft-owned company notes that the restrictions are based on place of residence and location, not nationality or heritage, and any user who believes they have been flagged in error can fill out a form to get restrictions lifted from their account.

In a statement on its website regarding the trade regions, GitHub further expanded on the rules. It said that travel to the affected countries, including Cuba and North Korea, can impact a user’s account status, though users can go through the aforementioned appeals process to reinstate their account.

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

ZDNet reported last week that a 21-year-old Russian living in Crimea, Anatoliy Kashkin, had his GitHub account restricted due to trade sanctions. Kashkin uses GitHub to host his website and, although he is aware of the appeals process, he doesn’t believe he can be helped by submitting an application.

Speaking to ZDNet, Kashkin said: “My account is flagged as restricted and in order to unflag it I have to provide a proof that I don’t live in Crimea. I am in fact a Russian citizen with Crimean registration, I am physically in Crimea and I am living in Crimea my entire life.”

GitHub developer homepage. Image: dimarik/Depositphotos

Updated, 2.30pm, 29 July 2019: This article was amended to remove incorrect references to ‘sort code’ and clarify that GitHub is a source code host.

Eva Short was a journalist at Silicon Republic