The news broke the other day of Microsoft disabling their instant messaging network, Windows Live Messenger, to a number of countries including Sudan, Syria, North Korea, Cuba and Iran, due to a number of trade embargoes which the US government has against these countries.
Long story short, the trade embargoes essentially restricts the import and export of goods to a country, sovereignty or government often due to political reasons, as a "form of protest against another country's practices".
Using this reasoning, because Iran is a theocracy, a country which promotes religious law and has spiritual leaders and therefore "non-democratic", then every Iranian citizen should be punished as a result. Because North Korea have been seen breaking international law by launching nuclear-capable short range missiles which could attack democracies in the near vicinity, the people of North Korea are just as bad as the government they are suppressed by.
It is difficult to put into action these trade embargoes for the reason that, of the people of these nations often the ones being oppressed by their governments. But the only way to hit home the severity of these trade sanctions is to let the "waterfall effect" which affects a group of people initially, then the spread trickles down to those in central government.
After discussing the Messenger ban, of which the US government is responsible for, with a group of friends in the pub earlier today, we concurred if anything, it could cause more recriminations for the United States. In blocking access to the instant messenger network, it could be conceived that the US government is attempting to persuade those affected that it is their governments responsible, when in fact it only stirs up more anti-US propaganda and ammunition by affected country's citizens.
"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".
After speaking to a friend at Microsoft this morning, they said:
"Basically, we didn't have a choice."
...indicating pressure from the government to enact these sanctions, irregardless of the fact that Microsoft is firmly in the private sector. Google, Yahoo!, and other major corporations do not submit to the embargo which has been placed by the US government, suggesting further possibilities that either Microsoft have been pushed to do this. Either that, or they have decided upon gaining as much negative publicity with 29.3 million Internet users in these countries plus more worldwide (with the exception of North Korea of which Internet usage is unknown).
In my personal opinion, this shows more about the US government than it does about the countries affected by the trade embargoes.
Affected users can bypass the restriction by changing their host country in Windows Live Accounts to a non-embargoed country.
It is unclear as to how students are affected, but as a high proportion of these users will be students, it will have a massive knock-on effect to how they communicate with one another. This comes along with the news that Iran have lifted their restriction on Facebook in the run up to their general elections.