Microsoft is confirming that it is cutting off Windows Live Messenger service for users in five countries that are "subject to United States sanctions."
As reported first by LiveSide.net earlier this week, "users in Cuba, Syria, Iran, Sudan and North Korea can no longer IM with Windows Live Messenger."
A Microsoft spokesperson confirmed the move on May 21:
"I can confirm the report on LiveSide is correct. Microsoft has discontinued providing Instant Messenger services in certain countries subject to United States sanctions. Details of these sanctions are available from the United States Office of Foreign Assets Control."
Microsoft isn't providing additional information beyond that statement. According to the Treasury Web site, the reasons for the political sanctions vary from country to country, and encompass everything from not "trading with the enemy" to trying to discourage terrorists and human-rights violators. Many of these sanctions date back eight years. So it's unclear why Microsoft just this week removed the access of users in these countries....
On a separate -- and much less dire note -- I've been getting intermittent rogue error messages when attempting to sign into Windows Live Messenger for the past couple of weeks. Sometimes I've gotten a message saying my password and ID are incorrect; other times, that I'm not connected to the Internet. When I've used Meebo to circumvent the Microsoft sign-in process, I've been able to use Windows Live Messenger just fine.
I've heard from a few other users who've been having Windows Live Messenger problems, too. Anyone have theories/knowledge as to what might be happening on the Live Messenger back-end? (Microsoft officials, when I asked, said they believe it's a problem on my end. But based on what I'm hearing from others, I think there's more to it than that.)