Edward Snowden tweeted a warning to Amazon’s AWS division this morning regarding a recent decision to ban all of Iran from the platform.
An American company, Amazon is forbidden from doing most types of business with the hermit kingdom of Iran.
The US government has taken this ban so seriously that they have even added certain known Iranian Bitcoin addresses to the list of “accounts” that Americans may not interact with.
Sanctions can extend further than that.
The US has the power to restrict trade on a routine basis. The effect is felt most by companies in banned countries who cannot do business with one of the world’s largest consumer markets.
The US and several of its allies have used sanctions for decades in an attempt to deter Iran from developing or possessing nuclear weapons.
Nuclear weapons or “weapons of mass destruction” were the largest pretext for the US’s 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Snowden pointed out that AWS, at this point in its monopoly arc, is an all-but-required asset for developers and companies trying to work online. Few alternatives can compete with its scale or convenience.
AWS has grown to be one of Amazon’s biggest money makers over the years.
The tweet was in response to a tweet from an Iranian developer who complained, asking how freedom is ever supposed to happen if those fighting for it don’t even have the power to build on the open web. Some external infrastructure is required for things like VPNs.
In the case of banning Iranian citizens, Amazon is only complying with federal law. Depending on your position in the political spectrum, Amazon has no choice.
But in a previous case involving Amazon, activist investors had complained that the company’s facial recognition product – shown to be occasionally faulty – had been sold and used by police departments across the United States. Amazon relies on a different body of research to conclude that the technology is accurate enough to sell to governments.
Some have argued that Amazon’s only morality is its bottom line. The company, which paid $0 federal income taxes last year, became a popular target of far-left liberals like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (known as AOC). The freshman congresswoman celebrated Amazon’s decision to not create thousands of new jobs in Queens, where AOC was elected.
Amazon is not the first big Silicon Valley outfit to block Iranian access. Github took some flak for doing the same last week.
Github is currently a subsidiary of Microsoft, which ironically makes Redmond one of the largest maintainers of open source code in the entire world.
The spirit of open source and none of its licenses allow for blocking based on region, but most licenses and American tech companies wish to comply with government regulations.