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Hotmail and Yahoo Mail block Iran from webmail access

As U.S. sanctions against Iran begin to heat up, Web companies are following suit: Yahoo Mail and Hotmail removed Iran from the list of countries available for their webmail services. Does this send the right message to Iranians?

Digital Journal — Microsoft and Yahoo are removing Iran from their webmail’s respective country lists in light of stronger U.S. sanctions against the Middle East nation, the UK Register reports in an exclusive story.

A Yahoo spokesperson told the Register:
“Yahoo! continually reviews its business operations to ensure compliance with these restrictions. Consistent with this policy, we cannot accept registrations from countries subject to these restrictions. So essentially, you can’t choose Iran as a country option because we are restricted from conducting business there – all US companies must comply with this policy.”

Microsoft didn’t comment on the issue, nor was an Iranian embassy representative available for an interview.

The decision to ban Iran from these webmail services comes at a tenuous time in U.S.-Iran relations. In late October, the U.S. ramped up its sanctions against Iran after Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice said the move was “a comprehensive policy to confront the threatening behaviour of the Iranians.” Iran responded by calling the sanctions “senseless” and made sure to point out their economic momentum isn’t stalling from the restrictions.

When the U.S. imposed its latest round of sanctions, Rice and company targeted state-owned banks and the finances of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps. But with news of Microsoft and Yahoo blocking Iranian residents from using free mail tools, it sends a different kind of message. Censorship is already rampant on the Iranian Web, and now American companies are contributing to the problem? How does blocking an Iranian kid from using Hotmail pressure Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to scale back its nuclear program or turn in terrorists?

Whether these Net companies are responding to overanxious lawyers or government-directed missives remains to be seen. Reading between the lines, it’s easy to discern how intense the U.S.-Iran conflict has become, affecting various offshoots of American businesses. Little do Iranians know that their Web wanderings are getting cut short by overseas companies — not only by their own censor-friendly government. Now the Iranians won’t be able to experience 5GB of email storage, MSN newsletters and 50 spam messages every day.

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