In late January, on the same day as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's speech on Net freedom, open source community SourceForge blocked access to users from Sudan, Syria, Iran, Cuba, and North Korea, in an effort to keep in line with U.S. Treasury export restrictions on those countries.
Ordinary netizens were outraged, and Syrian users fought back, blogging about the restrictions and calling for entrepreneurship in the community. Now, two weeks later, SourceForge has announced a change in restrictions that would allow greater autonomy for projects hosted on the site. On their official blog, SourceForge directors explained:
Our action provoked a strong, angry reaction from those it affected and from the community at large. But even before we heard your cries of outrage, we were looking for reasonable alternatives – and we believe that we’ve found one.
We have no way of knowing exactly which projects should trigger a block. But each project’s leadership is positioned to make such determination – so we’ve placed that power in their hands.
Beginning now, every project admin can click on Develop -> Project Admin -> Project Settings to find a new section called Export Control. By default, we’ve ticked the more restrictive setting. If you conclude that your project is *not* subject to export regulations, or any other related prohibitions, you may now tick the other check mark and click Update. After that, all users will be able to download your project files as they did before last month’s change.
We at SourceForge are fully committed to the ideals of free and open source software, including the principle of free exchange of information. We recognize that, for some people, the recent site changes called into question whether your support of us is justified. The changes that we deployed today are intended to empower our projects and reward your continued trust.
It remains to be seen how the new strategy will affect SourceForge users, or how many projects will choose to turn off the restrictions, but for now, users are happy to have regained access to the site.