Should where people live determine if they get access to email? According to Yahoo!, the answer is yes. Yahoo! has decided not to allow people in Iran to create new email accounts simply because of where they live.
Why? Iran is facing unprecedented sanctions. Here's the thing though -- services like free email accounts are exempt from those laws. No matter where you stand on the effectiveness of the Iran sanctions, those laws don't apply here. The State Department has already decided that denying Iranians access to communications technology like email has no impact on the diplomatic negotiations or national security. That's why they exempted the technology from sanctions in the first place.
Instead of continuing to provide millions of Iranian users with email, media sharing and messaging services, Yahoo! has decided to shut off the ability for Iranians to create new accounts. For many of us in the U.S. who use services such as Gmail or Hotmail, not having access to Yahoo! may not seem like a big deal.
However, Yahoo is the most popular email service in Iran and over 63 percent of Iranians use Yahoo! as their primary email provider. This unnecessary move by Yahoo! to limit access may force many Iranians to use insecure and less-stable government Internet communications services -- essentially the local equivalent of an NSA-run email service. Safe and reliable email services is something we need everyone to have access to.
Yahoo!'s reputation has already taken a battering over the NSA scandal -- which is why in a recent speech, Marissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo!, said that, as a company, Yahoo! needs to "rebuild trust with our users." Here's the thing -- that trust has to extend to users beyond those in the U.S. or else it's meaningless.
This is evident by the fact that in less than 24 hours more than 11,000 people signed a campaign asking Yahoo! to reverse this policy and allow people in Iran to create Yahoo! mail accounts. Most of those people don't have Iranian heritage and despite that are outraged by Yahoo!'s behavior.
Technology is a tool that makes it infinitely easier for people from all over the world to share their hopes, stories and dreams together. Now that the United States and Iranian governments are talking to each other after decades, we need to raise our voices to ensure that every day citizens can have that same privilege too.
In less than two days over 12,000 people have signed a petition asking Yahoo! to change this policy -- you can join them here: http://www.berim.org/yahoo