Should Facebook, Twitter follow IM providers and block access to U.S. 'enemies'?
Legal experts say the services should be blocked, but others question a contradiction with democratic goals for the countries
Computerworld - Facebook and Twitter should join instant messaging services and block access to U.S.-sanctioned countries in order to avoid running afoul of the government's trade embargoes, say legal experts.
However, others say that doing so would be premature and run against the U.S. government's goals regarding trade embargoes and for bringing democracy to the countries.
Computerworld spoke with two lawyers who advise companies on how to comply with bans on exports of goods and services set by the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control.
OFAC's sanctions currently block U.S. firms and citizens from trading with Cuba, Iran and Sudan, and from providing goods or services to certain institutions or individuals -- called specially designated nationals (SDN) -- in Syria and North Korea, said Clif Burns, a lawyer in the Washington office of Bryan Cave LLP, and author of the ExportLawBlog.
OFAC has long fought terrorists and drug dealers through its traditional anti-money-laundering tactics, said Burns. But in recent months, the group has been taking a stronger look at how curbing access to Internet services can aid in that battle, he said.
"This is an increasing area of interest to them," Burns said, citing a conversation he recently had with an unnamed OFAC official.
OFAC did not respond to a request for comment.
IM move sets the tone
Though OFAC has not explicitly prohibited Web communication services, Burns says the fact that Microsoft, Google and AOL have all turned off IM services, possibly at OFAC's request, should be a clear signal.
"If you ask any lawyer who regularly practices in this area, they would say don't offer the service [to sanctioned countries]," Burns said.
This is true even if the service is completely hosted and doesn't require the downloading of IM software to users' computers, which is considered the export of a good, Burns said.
Erich Ferrari, another D.C.-based legal expert on OFAC issues, said Web 2.0 vendors need to worry about the "stigma" of their services being used by terrorist or narcotics-linked groups.
"I think Obama is starting to get focused on the cyberwar on terror, and OFAC is essentially our instrument in the financial war on terror," Ferrari said.
Facebook and Twitter did not reply to a request for comment.
Besides IM, Microsoft has been blocking access to other Windows Live services that require a user download since "late last year," confirmed Microsoft's director of product management, Dharmesh Mehta, this week.
Windows Live client applications include Movie Maker, Mail, Writer (a blog authoring tool), Photo Gallery and others.
U.S. Web hosting firm Blue Host was criticized earlier this spring for shutting down the blogs of users in Iran and other U.S.-sanctioned countries.
- The 20 Best iPhone/iPad Games of 2013 So Far
- 9 Steps to Build Your Personal Brand (and Your Career)
- 7 Consumer Technologies Coming to an Enterprise Near You
- 11 Signs Your IT Project is Doomed
- A walking tour: 33 questions to ask about your company's security
- 15 social media scams
- The 7 elements of a successful security awareness program
- IT Certification Study Tips
- Register for this Computerworld Insider Study Tip guide and gain access to hundreds of premium content articles, cheat sheets, product reviews and more.
- Federal IT Innovation Caught in a Catch-22
- Fed resources shoring up old infrastructure, holding back new technologies.
- Harness IT -- An Introduction to Business Intelligence Solutions
- Learn the key selection criteria required to provide your organization with the capability to address structured data, unstructured data and mobile demands so...
- Business Intelligence Shows its Smarts
- Today's Business Intelligence (BI) tools provide a new way to think about data with self-service capabilities and user-friendly analytics that can be used...
- Proactive Planning for Big Data
- Big data is less about the terabytes and more about the query tools and business intelligence needed to make sense of massive amounts...
- Inquiry Spotlight: Consumer-Facing Identity
- The challenges of consumer-facing identity management, access management, and authentication differ in ways subtle and dramatic from those of the employee-facing variety. All Government IT White Papers
- Becoming An Analytics Driven Organization
- Join us on Tuesday, June 18, 2013, 11:00 AM EDT and learn how your agency can create an analytics culture that will enable...
- 3 Reasons Why Sepaton is the World's Fastest Backup Solution
- Leading analyst, Storage Switzerland learns how Sepaton backs up and deduplicates massive data volumes while maintaining the industry's fastest performance - all in...
- Enterprise File Sharing: All You Need to Know
- Security. Scalability. Control. These are just some of the many benefits of enterprise cloud file-sharing that you'll discover in this KnowledgeVault, packed with...
- Bridging HTTP and FTP with FileXpress Internet Server
- What if you could take an FTP server on your internal network, and allow external users (partners or customers) to securely access it...
- MFT and FileXpress - An Overview
- Business users and applications exchange files on a regular basis. File transfer is a core part of the flow of business activity. All Government IT Webcasts