Monday, October 8, 2018

Export control and Treasury department rules has led US web hosts to close accounts of some legal foreign nationals for years



Since there has been a lot of attention to deplaforming some individuals and groups from not only social media but from conventionally hosted web sites since the Charlottesville riots in the U.S. in August 2017, it is only natural to go back and look for possible previous examples of similar practices.
  
A number of web hosts will not allow people from “blacklisted” countries or “rogue states” to have accounts on their platforms. The legal reason for this practice is supposedly US export controls (Commerce Department), which include encryption, which is common with all web hosting. Another reason is Treasury Department rules which ban companies from doing business with certain individuals in a few countries.  These might be difficult for web hosts to comply with (in an analogy to downstream liability issues in the US like Section 230, and DMCA for copyright).

In an article about Bluehost, Wikipedia notes an incident in 2009 reported in Newsweek (Evgeny Morovo) where the company canceled an account of a legal resident from Belarus (the account was professional).  Other countries involved in these possible “self-censorshop_include Myanmar, Cuba, North Korea (of course), Sudan (not sure on South Sudan), Zimbabwe, and some countries in the former Yugoslavia.   Some companies probably will not do business in Russia or China.

Wikipedia also notes that a few companies belonging to the Endurance group were hacked in 2015 by elements of the “Syrian Electronic Army” supposedly supporting Assad.
  
Companies may face challenges complying with Articles 11 and 13 of the new European Copyright Directive as it is rolled out, with regard to materials originating in the US but viewable in the EU, especially if the companies have operations in the EU.  It is unclear whether a holding company owning web hosts could reduce legal exposure by simply not allowing some subordinates to operate in the EU.

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