Currently Browsing

Posts Tagged ‘ Iran cyber sanctions ’

  • 1 September 2009
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • Congress, Diplomacy, Events in Iran, Iran Election 2009, Sanctions

How US sanctions will doom Iran’s Twitter uprising

googleIran has an amazing array of blogs, many of which we link to regularly here at niacINsight.  But one that somehow escaped our notice until today is Net Effect, run by Evgeny Morozov, a Belarusian who is in the middle of writing a book about the impact of the Internet on global politics, with a particular focus on authoritarian states (hmm, sound relevant?).

Morozov has written a provocative piece on the unintended impact of comprehensive Iran sanctions and how they restrict the Iranian people’s ability to use the internet as a megaphone for political dissent–(something I think a lot of members of Congress would get behind these days).

Apparently, Google has prohibited their popular Google Ads service to users in Iran.  This is the service that promotes customized commercial sites and promotional offers based on website content. The service is a great way for web entrepreneurs to raise funds and maintain their operations.  And for many Iranians, the internet is the only (remotely) safe place to voice their dissent.

But apparently Google is worried that driving revenue to an Iranian website, even without any US connection, would get them in hot water:

Google doesn’t allow to target visitors from Iran (as well as Cuba, North Korea, Sudan and Syria) because of – you guessed it – the economic sanctions imposed by the US government. Now, this is something that I entirely cannot understand: how exactly would Google AdSense strengthen the Iranian regime? The Iranian state media doesn’t need to use Google Ads to generate its revenue: they are lavishly funded by the state.

The only people who suffer because of these sanctions are the Iranian Web entrepreneurs who are cut off from a guaranteed source of funding.

This truly gets to the heart of one of the most troubling aspects of what Congress’ Iran policy has grown into over the last two decades.  Rather than prohibiting activities that directly benefit the Iranian government, lawmakers have decided to close off the whole of Iranian society, thinking that the only thing that matters is to maximize the amount of discomfort imposed on Tehran.  But unfortunately this overlooks the countless potential opportunities for helping the Iranian people, that also provide absolutely zero assistance to the government.  Google Ads, according to Morozov, would be one of those areas:

[T]here is no need to fear that the Basijis would usurp this space. There are plenty of extremists outside of Iran and Google has learnt how to identify and deal with them; why would they fail to reign the Basijis? If they create content which doesn’t fit Google’s policies, let Google deal with them instead of simply shutting the online advertising option to Iranians.

This is an issue that we have been looking into very closely this summer, and we hope it will be given more attention. Congress needs to wise up on its Iran policy, and take the time to separate the Iranian people, whom they claim to support and admire, from their government.

In the meantime, for everyone who has been discouraged at not being able to help the Iranian people in their struggle for change this summer, here’s a message that you should send to your representatives in Washington: Stop keeping me from helping Iranians, and get out of my way!

Sign the Petition


7,350 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.



Share this with your friends: