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Cover image for GitLab joined legalized discrimination. Why does no one talk about this?
Hamed Saeedi
Hamed Saeedi

Posted on • Updated on

GitLab joined legalized discrimination. Why does no one talk about this?

This article originally posted on my Medium.

U.S. government force companies like Amazon, Slack, GitHub, GitLab to apply systematic online segregation so they can achieve political goals.

History

  • U.S. companies comply with U.S. sanctions against Iran. But some of them apply sanction laws beyond their legal obligations. There is absolutely no law from the U.S. government that enforces tech companies to block users from sanctioned countries without prior notice and disable backup options for them.
    Some companies just apply sanctions. For example, when Digital Ocean (an American company) decided to apply Iran sanctions, they notified Iranian customers and gave them 72 hours to move their servers. See? That is applying sanctions without harming users. But that’s not all.

  • Back in 2018 Slack started to block Iranian accounts without prior notice and without providing a way to backup data. They targeted people by nationality including Iranian academics from Canada who doesn’t have anything related to Iran. Slack apologized and said they don’t target users by nationality.

  • GitHub started to block Iranian developers by their nationality back in 2019. Again without prior notice and without providing a way to backup data. After blocking Iranians who don't live in Iran including one of the major contributors of Nuxt project. Then they restored access for some of the blocked developers without an apology. Others are still blocked from private repositories and some other free features.
    If you go to the U.S. Treasury FAQ page you see that no one who is Iran to visit relatives should be blocked but if you ask Iranian developers who live abroad you will see that GitHub blocked their account when they visit Iran. That is another example of applying sanctions beyond legal obligations.

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Now let’s read about GitLab.

What Happened?

Well, GitLab started to block Iranian developers. Wait! This is not just about Iran which I explain later.

Last week we noticed that we can’t access GitLab with Iran IPs. Then they claimed that this is because of vendor change:

This is a result of moving to a new vendor. In accordance with the guidance provided by the U.S. government, and not determined by GitLab, there are some countries that cannot access our platform. We apologize for the inconvenience this caused users.

Now, They started to actively block Iranian Accounts. When I say “BLOCK” that means blocking without prior notice and without providing a way to backup OUR DATA.

Little Context

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.

After few days of silence, finally, GitHub decided to provide a weird way for us to download a copy of our data (We have to make a private repository public then clone it and then probably delete it because there is no way to make a repo private again)

Seizing developer's money!

If you from a sanctioned country and a billion-dollar company like GitHub suddenly decided to block your “pro” account without prior notice, well, you should say goodbye to what you paid for pro features. I’m not kidding.

Long process for complaints

Well, because they target you based on nationality. They may block developers who don’t live in Iran. In that case, you can send documents so they open your account. But in some cases, that could take more than a month! Maybe related to the COVID situation but still a month!

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Why this is important?

You may say: Ok. That is awful! but not my problem. I mentioned the problem in another article

Two key points are:

  • The U.S law can ignore GDPR

One of the GDPR ideas is “Data portability” which means the user must have an option to export his/her data

Update: Reddit users, I KNOW that Iran is not in the EU. For the context please read the original article.

  • The U.S. law can ignore open-source values When it comes to the “Evil” person (which we are not), open-source values are clear.

And this is alarming for both legislators and the software community. Note that based on U.S. Treasury press release this sanctions not supposed to target Iranian people or Internet freedom

Why does no one talk about this?

People around the world or in the software community can’t even imagine what is like to don’t have access to 50% of the Internet

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So when we (people who live in Iran) talk about sanctions, no one really can understand the gravity of the situation.
The irony is I write this article on Medium which is blocked by the Iran government! so we have to fight both domestic censorship and U.S. sanctions at the same time and that is frustrating.

What YOU can do?

Help us! Help us spread the word.
Share this article. Share your opinion about this.
Ask U.S. tech companies like GitLab why they apply U.S. trade laws and sanctions this way: They targeting users by nationality, block them without prior notice and disable backup options.
Who authorized this legalized discrimination?
At the end of one of my articles, I quoted from Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

I say to you today, my friends, though, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream.

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I said that I have a dream too: I have a dream today … I have a dream that one day we will break these online chains. But now, again I have to ask a big question: Who will be the first “Rosa Parks” of the Internet?

Discussion (30)

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xyn profile image
Mydrax • Edited on

I've been hearing about this as well, and from what I've read this has less to do with GitLab or any company and more to do with the fact that they are US-based so they must follow any rule that their government enforces.

That part is beyond what we can change but I think the fact that there is no notice period to backup your stuff is unnecessary and can be changed.

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akashkava profile image
Akash Kava

It’s not that simple, every software has many dependencies on other companies, if one component is banned, entire chain of software is banned. This is against free communication and it is legal bully for every other country except US.

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yoursunny profile image
Junxiao Shi

We are too scared to talk about this. FBI would come with liquid nitrogen and confiscate all our devices.

You can install a private Gitea instance and host your repositories there.

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hamed profile image
Hamed Saeedi Author

Ok. I get it. But let me be more clear about "blocking": If they block your account, you don't access to your code even with VPN (change of IP). so there is no data to import in that "private Gitea instance"

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futureistaken profile image
R Z

I also store all my repositories on a portable device and feel a bit safer.

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yoursunny profile image
Junxiao Shi

Import from your local backup.

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hamed profile image
Hamed Saeedi Author

What if you don't have a local backup (old project perhaps)? What about issues? Merge requests? Labels and all other data?

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yoursunny profile image
Junxiao Shi

If you don't have backup, it means the data isn't important to you.

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hamed profile image
Hamed Saeedi Author • Edited on

Come on! Do you really have a backup of your repository issues?

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yoursunny profile image
Junxiao Shi

Issues including their comments are in my email inbox.

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v6 profile image
🦄N B🛡 • Edited on

FBI would come with liquid nitrogen and confiscate all our devices.

Or they'll just raid your house and shoot your dogs.

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clawfire profile image
Thibault Milan • Edited on

That's why China is creating their own Github like service. To prevent any U.S. disruption in the likely scenario where Github & Gitlab will be forced also to cut access to Chinese people from their services :(

It's really sad to see a company like Gitlab (which have European entities that would be able to provide such services without having ton comply to U.S. law), especially since they were advertising themself as "less evil" and "more open" than Github :/

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webbureaucrat profile image
webbureaucrat

China itself has more than once launched massive DDOS attacks against GitHub in hopes of taking GitHub offline, so it doesn't make any sense to say that the main reason why they're building their own site is to prevent US censorship. wired.com/story/github-ddos-memcac...

China is building their own git hosting site so they can block the others.

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clawfire profile image
Thibault Milan

Don't mistake Chinese gov. from Chinese companies. That's not the government that is building a GitHub-like platform. Plus you are talking about something happened in 2015, your source said the 2018 hack can't be linked to the Chinese gov.

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dvaraujo profile image
dvaraujo

This is ridiculous! I've been reading about this and the shady Github contracts with U.S. immigration agencies and let me tell you: if we don't move to a decentralized internet (as is supposed to be and was before) we are doomed. What scare me the most it's the Amazon situation, It's simply against the central idea of the internet. It's just a shame, really. Hamed, I hope you can get your work back. Be strong. Keep fighting

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bennypowers profile image
Benny Powers 🇮🇱🇨🇦 • Edited on

The Ayatollah legally bars Iranians from doing business with me, because I'm a Jewish Israeli, are we going to talk about that?

github.com/armancodes/laravel-down...

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hamed profile image
Hamed Saeedi Author

Sure. Let's talk about that too. The difference is no one from Israel rely on Iranian platforms but both people of Iran and Israel rely on U.S. tech companies like GitHub and Gitlab so when U.S. tech companies decide to target people by nationality and block them without prior notice (beyond legal obligations) that is alarming for the software community

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bennypowers profile image
Benny Powers 🇮🇱🇨🇦

Did you read the Link I sent?

The Iranian government discriminates against Israelis in exactly the same way that you object to the US government doing against Iranians.

If you object to the US' sanctions against Iran on the basis that they are discriminatory, how do you then justify the Atatollah's antisemitism?

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ac37s profile image
e1cb4 ac37s

Actually nobody gives a single f*ck about your problems. I say it from Crimea. Our position is better still, no (or at least I don't feel them) domestic "sanctions". It's kinda funny reading about jamstack, cloud certs and whole saas/iaas shiny things and not being able to use them. Well, there are opportunities to "bypass" those walls, still you have to live with assumption that some time you get caught being crimean, banned and everithing is gone.

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pjotre86 profile image
pjotre86

That's the result of an inhuman government (Iran) and an incompetent one (US). The nuclear deal of 2015 was a good thing. Diplomats from all over the world put so much effort into it! Canceled by Trump in a tweet...
After that it all went in the wrong direction again, as we can see now.

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v6 profile image
🦄N B🛡 • Edited on

I foresee the same fate for the Chinese Communist Party.

It is, indeed, legalized discrimination, and it's well within the bounds of the USA Constitution and international norms to declare embargoes or sanctions on countries whose governments are deemed to great a threat.

I'm fairly sure the poor slaves in North Korea have to suffer the same, innocent bystanders and the criminals such an embargo is meant to target alike.

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itachiuchiha profile image
Itachi Uchiha

In 2019, I wrote a post about GitLab's approach.

dev.to/aligoren/what-do-you-think-...

I don't like these kinds of things.

So what can we do? I don't know what to do. Because the U.S. is the new EVIL GOD of this world.

GitLab is a global product but decisions aren't. So, should we afraid about the future? I think yes because we don't have a chance to choose our allies or enemies.

When a politician say John Doe is a terrorist, everything should be closed to him immediately.

I don't support Iranian politicians or American politicians. Actually, I don't support any politicians over this world.

Because their decisions are not my decisions. But laws work by their decisions.

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teclado profile image
Teclado Mugriento

I had never thought about it, and it's ridiculous at least. But I have to answer you with a "tell it to a cuban". This absurd is neither new nor unexpected from the government of a country with great people (great when isolated in their fields) without any political criteria.

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coelicidium profile image
coelicidium

This is not acceptable at all. We should group together and make this go viral. Let's organize.

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hamed profile image
Hamed Saeedi Author

Thank you for your support. Help us spread the word

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yo profile image
Yogi

Hamed can you create a GitLab repo and let us all sign together!

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hamed profile image
Hamed Saeedi Author

Thank you for your support. Actually, last year when GitHub decided to block Iranians, we create a repo (more than 12K stars, one of the Trend repositories back in 2019, translated to 18 languages, supported by developers around the world) but it didn't work. They don't listen to us.

Here is that repository: github.com/1995parham/github-do-no...

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yo profile image
Yogi

Ooof! There is no other way?

GitHub and GitLab need to move their HQ to Europe 😅, that might help us!

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ataherinmobly profile image
sekab

Totally agree with this

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yo profile image
Yogi • Edited on