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  • 21 February 2013
  • Posted By Sina Toossi
  • 1 Comments
  • Sanctions

Are Google “doodles” sanctioned?

Google recently created a special “doodle” to mark the 812th birthday of the polymath Nasir al-Din al-Tusi, and attributes him to every country in the Middle East except the one where he actually comes from–Iran.

Doodles are commemorative changes in the Google homepage logo that are meant to celebrate an event or individual. In honoring al-Tusi, Google did the commendable thing of raising awareness about an individual and time many are unfamiliar with. However, Google committed one rather large disservice to the spread of accurate historical information with this doodle by attributing almost every country in the Middle East and North Africa (including Afghanistan) to him except the one he was actually from. Indeed, Nasir al-Din al-Tusi was a native of Khorasan (a region in north east modern day Iran), spoke and wrote in Persian as well as Arabic, and grew up in the Iranian cities of Tus, Hamedan, and Neishapur.

Now the reasons for why there was no attribution to Iran at all for this doodle are unclear. Many Google doodles, including this one for al-Tusi, are country specific. That is, they only show up on the Google homepages in countries that are listed under location on the page for the doodle. Iran does not even have a location page on the Google doodle website, which suggests it is simply excluded from Google doodle. Even doodles such as last year’s one for the Persian New Year exclude Iran. This begs the question of whether or not excluding Iran from these doodles is a result of Google having to blacklist Iran because of sanctions.

Google remains one of the few sites in Iran not blocked by the Iranian government, and many Iranians rely on it for email and search, and even make extensive use of the Persian language version of Google. Yet, Google does have a history of blocking certain services for Iran, citing sanctions. When Google Plus was introduced, Google first banned the service for Iranian IP addresses (calling Iran a “forbidden country”) before Iranian government filters got anywhere close to it. Google’s popular Google Play app store for Android mobile platforms has also long been blocked for Iranian customers. Google Earth, the Chrome Browser, and the photo service Picasa were also blocked for Iran until events (mostly the Green movement protests) and pressure led the U.S. government to issue a license that allowed these programs to be made available in Iran. Several organizations, including NIAC, have called in the past on Google and other tech companies to stop blocking Iranian people from accessing Internet communication tools.

U.S. Companies Blocking Communication Tools in Iran

With Apple’s vigilante-sanctions-enforcement/racial profiling of Iranian Americans receiving well-deserved attention, we wanted to spotlight similar over-enforcement of broad sanctions by tech companies impacting people inside Iran.  Below is a list of services not technically blocked by sanctions but still denied to Iranians by U.S. companies, compiled via researcher Collin Anderson who maintains and updates the list here:

Publisher Product Blocked By Company Require License? Notes
Google Google Talk X N
Google AdSense X Y
Google AdWords X Y
Google Android Market X N
Google Google Code X N
Google App Engine X N Cannot Host or Access Resource on Platform
Yahoo Yahoo Messenger X N
Yahoo Yahoo Web Messenger No SSL Support N
GoDaddy (all) X N Webpage Does Not Respond
Adobe (commercial products) X Varies Webpage Does Not Respond
Geeknet, Inc. Sourceforge X ITAR Issue
McAfee MacAfee Antivirus X Y
Symantec/Norton (all) ? Y
AVG Technologies (all) X Y
Oracle MySQL X Not Where Free
Oracle NetBeans X N
Xacti Group inbox.com X N
cPanel, Inc. cPanel X Y
Logitech (all) X Varies
  • 7 May 2012
  • Posted By NIAC
  • 90 Comments
  • Persian Gulf

Tell Google: Stop playing Persian Gulf name games!

The Persian GulfIf you have visited Google Maps recently, you may have noticed that Google has removed the title of the Persian Gulf—leaving the body of water without a name.

This follows Google’s 2008 decision to include the historically inaccurate and politically charged name “Arabian Gulf” alongside “Persian Gulf” in their Google Earth application.

The name “Persian Gulf” is historically accurate, legally acknowledged, apolitical and internationally recognized.  But in the past century, and particularly at times of escalating tensions, there have been efforts to exploit the name of the Persian Gulf as a political tool—including by the likes of Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden.

In 2004, NIAC successfully worked with National Geographic to correct its maps that used the erroneous title for the Persian Gulf.  Now, we need to act to make sure Google is not a tool of historical revisionism that sows ethnic and political divisions.

Sign your name on our open letter to Google’s CEO Larry Page to call on Google to stop playing name games with the Persian Gulf and to use the correct name.  We will send the letter out on Monday, May 14, so make sure that you, your friends, and your family sign on to the letter before then.

NIAC will protect your privacy and keep you informed about this and similar campaigns. 

Tell Google: Stop playing Persian Gulf name games!

May 14, 2012
Larry Page
Chief Executive Officer
Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, California 94043

Dear Mr. Page:

It has come to our attention that Google has begun omitting the title of the Persian Gulf from its Google Maps application. This is a disconcerting development given the undisputed historic and geographic precedent of the name Persian Gulf, and the more recent history of opening up the name to political, ethnic, and territorial disputes. However unintentionally, in adopting this practice, Google is participating in a dangerous effort to foment tensions and ethnic divisions in the Middle East by politicizing the region’s geographic nomenclature. Members of the Iranian-American community are overwhelmingly opposed to such efforts, particularly at a time when regional tensions already have been pushed to the brink and threaten to spill over into conflict. As the largest grassroots organization in the Iranian-American community, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) calls on Google to not allow its products to become propaganda tools and to immediately reinstate the historically accurate, apolitical title of “Persian Gulf” in all of its informational products, including Google Maps.

Historically, the name “Persian Gulf” is undisputed. The Greek geographer and astronomer Ptolemy referencing in his writings the “Aquarius Persico.” The Romans referred to the "Mare Persicum." The Arabs historically call the body of water, "Bahr al-Farsia." The legal precedent of this nomenclature is also indisputable, with both the United Nations and the United States Board of Geographic Names confirming the sole legitimacy of the term “Persian Gulf.” Agreement on this matter has also been codified by the signatures of all six bordering Arab countries on United Nations directives declaring this body of water to be the Persian Gulf.

But in the past century, and particularly at times of escalating tensions, there have been efforts to exploit the name of the Persian Gulf as a political tool to foment ethnic division. From colonial interests to Arab interests to Iranian interests, the opening of debate regarding the name of the Persian Gulf has been a recent phenomenon that has been exploited for political gain by all sides. Google should not enable these politicized efforts.

In the 1930s, British adviser to Bahrain Sir Charles Belgrave proposed to rename the Persian Gulf, “Arabian Gulf,” a proposal that was rejected by the British Colonial and Foreign offices. Two decades later, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company resurrected the term during its dispute with Mohammad Mossadegh, the Iranian Prime Minister whose battle with British oil interests would end in a U.S.-sponsored coup d'état that continues to haunt U.S.-Iran relations. In the 1960s, the title “Arabian Gulf” became central to propaganda efforts during the Pan-Arabism era aimed at exploiting ethnic divisions in the region to unite Arabs against non-Arabs, namely Iranians and Israelis. The term was later employed by Saddam Hussein to justify his aims at territorial expansion. Osama Bin Laden even adopted the phrase in an attempt to rally Arab populations by emphasizing ethnic rivalries in the Middle East.

We have serious concerns that Google is now playing into these efforts of geographic politicization. Unfortunately, this is not the first time Google has stirred controversy on this topic. In 2008, Google Earth began including the term “Arabian Gulf” in addition to Persian Gulf as the name for the body of water. NIAC and others called on you then to stop using this ethnically divisive propaganda term, but to no avail. Instead of following the example of organizations like the National Geographic Society, which in 2004 used term “Arabian Gulf” in its maps but recognized the error and corrected it, Google has apparently decided to allow its informational products to become politicized.

Google should rectify this situation and immediately include the proper name for the Persian Gulf in Google Maps and all of its informational products. The exclusion of the title of the Persian Gulf diminishes your applications as informational tools, and raises questions about the integrity and accuracy of information provided by Google.

We strongly urge you to stay true to Google’s mission – “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” – without distorting or politicizing that information. We look forward to an explanation from you regarding the recent removal of the Persian Gulf name from Google Maps and call on you to immediately correct this mistake.

Sincerely,

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Tell Google to Stop playing Persian Gulf name games!

  • 21 March 2012
  • Posted By Jamal Abdi
  • 0 Comments
  • Sanctions

Obama Norooz promise a good step, more needed to ensure U.S. not part of “Electronic Curtain”

Yesterday, President Obama released his Norooz message, which has now become an annual White House tradition marking the Iranian New Year.  Thankfully, these messages have actually come with some real substance.  In his  2010 message, Obama promised to increase opportunities for young Iranians to study at American universities, and he followed through by implementing a new multiple entry visa for Iranian students.  This year, he used the opportunity to announce much needed reforms to existing U.S. sanctions that have inadvertently contributed to Internet censorship in Iran.

NIAC praised the move–we have supported legislation in the past to do away with the entire process of licensing for Internet communication tools and services, which errs on the side of restricting and undermining the open exchange of information in Iran.  We’ve argued that opening the floodgates for Iranians to access outside technology is the best way to help Iranians overwhelm and counter government censorship–an open source solution to the problem.

Another important reason to allow applications like Java to be available to Iranians is that, without access to security patches and updated versions of the software, Iranian Internet users are far more susceptible to trojan horses and worms–which the so-called Iranian Cyber Army is well aware of and reportedly exploits.

So, while yesterday’s move was definitely a positive one, we also noted that more needs to be done to ensure U.S. sanctions don’t continue to help disconnect Iranians from the Internet, and to ensure access to satellite Internet and other services, software, and hardware are not blocked by sanctions for ordinary Iranians.  We also point out that the onus is also now on companies (such as GoDaddy, Google, DropBox, Skype, and Oracle) to make their services and software available in Iran.

  • 12 July 2011
  • Posted By Ali Tayebi
  • 2 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Sanctions, Uncategorized

Left Outside the Circle: Iranians and Google+

The newly launched Google social network service called Google+ has created a major buzz online, but has also sparked many questions (and some answers).  Why do we need another social network? What does it have to offer more than Twitter and Facebook?

But for Iranians, there is an even bigger question: will I even be allowed to use Google+?

That’s because the combination of the online filtering carried out by Iran’s government, paired with a U.S. sanctions regime that dissuades companies from offering services in Iran, often leaves Iranians stuck in limbo when it comes to access to social networking tools.

Sadly, with Google+ it looks like the supposedly contradictory forces of repression and sanctions are yet again working in tandem to leave ordinary Iranians outside of the social networking loop.

Over the past decade, despite the many obstacles, Iranians have been vanguards in utilizing social networks. Their journey started with Orkut, which created a huge amount of excitement around experiencing totally new online atmosphere.  Soon after, Orkut was blocked.

Then Yahoo 360 became popular and remained popular until Facebook emerged. Iranians settled into this social network like many other users around the world, and they gradually found their way to bypass the Iran government’s filtering by using VPN or anti-filter software. At the same time, some Iranians use Google Reader, which they called Gooder, as an underground sphere to distribute contents of blocked websites and news agencies in Iran.

Through Facebook, Iranian public figures for the first time started to publicly use social media to directly interact with their supporters. Eventually, Facebook was used in the 2009 election (and later in its aftermath), along with Twitter and YouTube–inspired in part by how Obama’s 2008 campaign utilized these tools. In so doing, Iran became the first Middle-Eastern country to use social media to mobilize people for political purposes. The phenomenon, sometimes referred to as a “twitter revolution” or Revolution 2.0, followed again with the Arab Spring.

Last week, when Google launched Google+ after two unsuccessful experiences in Google Buzz and Google Wave, Iranians started to look to the service and begin considering it next to Facebook, Twitter, and Google Reader. The initial impression of Google+ is that it has two main areas of potential for Iranians: 1) its integration with Google Reader can unveil the underground networks of Google Reader and easily provide broad access to censored information in Iran, 2) its integration with Google’s homepage, Gmail, and the new Google Toolbar can expand accessibility of Iranians to social networks because history shows that Google services have been the most challenging Internet services for Iran’s government to block.

But even before Google+ become publicly available, Iranians faced difficulties. First, Google banned this service for Iranian IPs and called Iran a “forbidden country.”  Then, a few days later, the Iranian government added Google Plus to their huge list of censored websites.

Now, VPN is the only option for Iranians to use Google+.  But not all the Iranians use VPN to bypass the governmental internet blockage because it is not free and it is not the most reliable or trustworthy option.

From an Iranian perspective, the government behavior is unacceptable, but expected. But for Google to block its new service for Iranians is shaemeful.  The U.S. government, which is talking about putting huge investment for providing free internet access for Iranians in projects like Internet in suitcase, should first take the easy steps and make sure that basic, widely used services like Google+ are not blocked by sanctions.

  • 14 May 2008
  • Posted By Trita Parsi
  • 7 Comments
  • Iranian American activism

What Do Google and Saddam Have in Common?

Google has a funny way of doing business — one that involves muddying politics in the Middle East.

In recent months, the organization has taken the unprecedented step to rename internationally recognized bodies of water. Google Earth has begun using the controversial term “Arabian Gulf” to the body of water traditionally and internationally identified as the “Persian Gulf.”

Now many may think: What’s in a name? Why would this even be an issue?

In the Middle East, nothing is just a name. And with more than 180,000 US troops in this unstable region, being oblivious to the politics of geographical renaming is dangerous.

Sign the Petition

 

7,349 signatures

Tell Google: Stop playing Persian Gulf name games!

May 14, 2012
Larry Page
Chief Executive Officer
Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, California 94043

Dear Mr. Page:

It has come to our attention that Google has begun omitting the title of the Persian Gulf from its Google Maps application. This is a disconcerting development given the undisputed historic and geographic precedent of the name Persian Gulf, and the more recent history of opening up the name to political, ethnic, and territorial disputes. However unintentionally, in adopting this practice, Google is participating in a dangerous effort to foment tensions and ethnic divisions in the Middle East by politicizing the region’s geographic nomenclature. Members of the Iranian-American community are overwhelmingly opposed to such efforts, particularly at a time when regional tensions already have been pushed to the brink and threaten to spill over into conflict. As the largest grassroots organization in the Iranian-American community, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) calls on Google to not allow its products to become propaganda tools and to immediately reinstate the historically accurate, apolitical title of “Persian Gulf” in all of its informational products, including Google Maps.

Historically, the name “Persian Gulf” is undisputed. The Greek geographer and astronomer Ptolemy referencing in his writings the “Aquarius Persico.” The Romans referred to the "Mare Persicum." The Arabs historically call the body of water, "Bahr al-Farsia." The legal precedent of this nomenclature is also indisputable, with both the United Nations and the United States Board of Geographic Names confirming the sole legitimacy of the term “Persian Gulf.” Agreement on this matter has also been codified by the signatures of all six bordering Arab countries on United Nations directives declaring this body of water to be the Persian Gulf.

But in the past century, and particularly at times of escalating tensions, there have been efforts to exploit the name of the Persian Gulf as a political tool to foment ethnic division. From colonial interests to Arab interests to Iranian interests, the opening of debate regarding the name of the Persian Gulf has been a recent phenomenon that has been exploited for political gain by all sides. Google should not enable these politicized efforts.

In the 1930s, British adviser to Bahrain Sir Charles Belgrave proposed to rename the Persian Gulf, “Arabian Gulf,” a proposal that was rejected by the British Colonial and Foreign offices. Two decades later, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company resurrected the term during its dispute with Mohammad Mossadegh, the Iranian Prime Minister whose battle with British oil interests would end in a U.S.-sponsored coup d'état that continues to haunt U.S.-Iran relations. In the 1960s, the title “Arabian Gulf” became central to propaganda efforts during the Pan-Arabism era aimed at exploiting ethnic divisions in the region to unite Arabs against non-Arabs, namely Iranians and Israelis. The term was later employed by Saddam Hussein to justify his aims at territorial expansion. Osama Bin Laden even adopted the phrase in an attempt to rally Arab populations by emphasizing ethnic rivalries in the Middle East.

We have serious concerns that Google is now playing into these efforts of geographic politicization. Unfortunately, this is not the first time Google has stirred controversy on this topic. In 2008, Google Earth began including the term “Arabian Gulf” in addition to Persian Gulf as the name for the body of water. NIAC and others called on you then to stop using this ethnically divisive propaganda term, but to no avail. Instead of following the example of organizations like the National Geographic Society, which in 2004 used term “Arabian Gulf” in its maps but recognized the error and corrected it, Google has apparently decided to allow its informational products to become politicized.

Google should rectify this situation and immediately include the proper name for the Persian Gulf in Google Maps and all of its informational products. The exclusion of the title of the Persian Gulf diminishes your applications as informational tools, and raises questions about the integrity and accuracy of information provided by Google.

We strongly urge you to stay true to Google’s mission – “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” – without distorting or politicizing that information. We look forward to an explanation from you regarding the recent removal of the Persian Gulf name from Google Maps and call on you to immediately correct this mistake.

Sincerely,

[signature]

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