A few days ago I read a Global Voices Advocacy post that has really been bothering me.
The post talks about users in Syria who have been indicating lately that their Linked In profiles are inaccessible in Syria.
One user got frustrated and wrote to Linked In. He was told that Linked In is “… ‘subject to export and re-export control laws and regulations. This includes the Export Administration Regulations maintained by the United States Department of Commerce and sanctions programs maintained by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control. Under the User Agreement, LinkedIn Users warrant that they are not prohibited from receiving U.S. origin products, including services or software. As such, and as a matter of corporate policy, we do not allow member accounts or access to our site from Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, or Syria.’”
On the one hand, I get it. The United States does not allow its citizens do business in certain places. That’s just part of being a business operating from the United States.
But obviously, that Linked In has not registered/based part of its business in another country in a way that would legally circumvent this policy is an endorsement of the idea that people in some nations should not, in fact, be linked in.
Isn’t a big part of this World Wide Web thing all about bringing people together to network and discuss ideas? And isn’t a big part of Linked In about making professional contacts? I don’t see why professionals working in Syria or Cuba are not worth contacting.
Even understanding that business can choose to do business in whatever way they see fit, this still does not sit with me. After all, we as consumers have just as much right to decide where to bring our business. So the big question is: Are Linked In users OK with being “linked out” of some places?
Another question: How does Linked In handle users who are not citizens of Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, or Syria but happen to be traveling in those areas when trying to log in to Linked In?
UPDATE 23 April: Facebook has updated its terms of service and will also block countries the U.S. has embargoed. Obviously, they read questions and comments made during the ongoing period of Facebook community voting on the terms of service. Their response to quesitons about blocking certain countries was, “As we state in the Principles, our principles are constrained by limitations of applicable law.”