Battle.Net Blocked in Iran for Promoting "Supersitition" [UPDATED]
UPDATE: Over the weekend, Blizzard responded to the Battle.Net thread, where fans continued to express their concern over the ban:
Our team has been watching this thread closely, and we understand the desire for more information about this situation. Blizzard Entertainment cannot speak to any reports surrounding the Iranian government restricting games from its citizens.
This also prevents us from providing any refunds, credits, transfers, or other service options to accounts in these countries. We apologize for any inconvenience this causes and will happily lift these restrictions as soon as US law allows.
Essentially, Blizzard recently updated the software that monitors the terms of service for certain regions including the Middle East, apparently. By updating that software, Iranian players have been blocked. In other words, it turns out that Battle.Net may have been banned in Iran by the United States government, not Iran.
Online gaming falls into a murky grey area in terms of U.S. trade sanctions on Iran. According to the Treasury department overview of U.S. trade sanctions on Iran, companies are not allowed to "export goods, technology, or services may not be exported, reexported, sold or supplied, directly or indirectly, from the United States or by a U.S. person, wherever located, to Iran or the Government of Iran." That seems pretty clear; Blizzard is a US company and there should not be "exporting" their games to Iranian players. However, there's also an exception granted to "information and informational materials", including "publications, films, posters, phonograph records, photographs, microfilms, microfiche, tapes, compact disks, CD ROMs, artworks, and news wire feeds." One could argue that video games fall under the umbrella of "informational materials" based on the list provided, however since neither online media or interactive entertainment are specifically mentioned, they may not fall into the category.
There is one loose end: As of now, no players or commenters have questioned the validity of the translation provided for the writing shown in thescreenshot posted in the initial forum post. The translation, provided by forum-goer, allegedly states that the screen notifying players that Battle.Net has been banned was blocked due to censorship issues, including "promotion of superstition and mythology."
We've contacted Blizzard about the nature of the update that led to these bans, and will continue to update the story as more information becomes available.
Original Story: Still complaining about endgame problems in Diablo III? Well, at least you can play the game. Battle.Net has been blocked by the Iranian government, according to IncGamers. Without access to the service, Iranian gamers will no longer be able to play any modern Blizzard games, including Diablo III, World of Warcraft, and Starcraft II.
A Tehran-based WoW player Siavash brought news of the ban to the Battle.Net forums, posting an image of the screen sent to him when he tried to log on. Without Battle.Net access, According to Siavash, the screen listed a few reasons why Battle.Net would no longer be accessible, including:
1. Promotion of superstition and mythology
2. Promotion of violence due to too much violence.*
3. Abolishing the deformation in sin.
4. Demonstration of inappropriate clothing and slutty outfits for female avatars.
* Siavash noted that the awkwardly phrased; "promotion of violence due to too much violence" is the literal translation of what was written on the screen.
The Iranian government's ban on online gaming isn't limited to Battle.Net; reports have indicated that at least one other MMO, Guild Wars, is also being blocked. With Guild Wars 2 coming out next week, (August 28th) it's a really bad time to be a fan of that series as well. Based on the two sets of games that have been blocked, Iranian censors seem to be targeting newer, more popular PC games. That's not a surprise, really, but it does indicate that online gaming, as a whole, is in the government's crosshairs.
According to Siavash, he and other industrious players have been able to access to Battle.net using proxies or a virtual private network. As Geekosystem points out, accessing a banned website illegally could have serious consequences. Blizzard has already been made aware of the block, and is contacting the Iranian government. I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for restoration of services, though.
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