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The Office of Foreign Assets Control which is the agency for managing sanctions, took sanctions not only against the organisation of an open source project, but made it broad enough to target the open source code too. While they later clarified that simply republishing the original (and no longer working) code before the sanction is OK, working or seeking questions about technical details on it remains likely banned until a court decides otherwise.

In that case, would Stack Exchange try to seek that code is speech in courts like some rare cases which wait to be compelled doing it ?
Or would it take the legal safety of the GitHub approach which ended up deleting the accounts of foreign developers immediately without waiting to be asked to do so ?
Rephrased: When OFAC partially bans code in an addition to their related individuals and when GitHub is putting all repositories of a software read‑only and deletes any newer contributions, would Stack exchange join the cohorts of forums even banning statistical data and academic publications related to the underlying algorithms in order to protect themselves legally ?

Or, would the response vary on a case-by-case basis even when there’s huge criticism about the decision of the OFAC in the field of the concerned community ?

EFF is deeply concerned that the U.S. Treasury Department has included an open-source computer project, Tornado Cash, on its list of sanctioned individuals. Tornado Cash is an open-source software project and website that published a decentralized cryptocurrency mixer. Code has long been recognized as speech, so there are clear First Amendment implications whenever the government inhibits the publication of computer code on a public website. - @EFF

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    I’m omitting the specific case I’m thinking about in order to keep this post general though I recognize I should have asked this before my question on the other exchange site. And disclosure : I recognize I could earn a very large amount of money should their bug bounty program resume with the modification planned before the demise. Commented Dec 15, 2022 at 21:44
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    @HolyBlackCat to put a little more context, it can be simplified to say that it did allow to encrypt source of funds over cryptocurrency much like Tor from the ɴꜱᴀ hides ɪᴘ. It is being used to funnel donations to resistance in occupied Ukraine but was also used by North Korea to launder money and so was put under sanctions. So in August the community somewhat awaken in a world where the Openssl website was down and with links on social medias no longer updated by ᴜꜱ developers resulting in peoples mostly installing and launching viruses on their computers from fake mirrors. Commented Dec 15, 2022 at 22:41
  • Is this the Bernstein case?: eff.org/cases/bernstein-v-us-dept-justice casetext.com/case/bernstein-v-us-dept-of-state-3
    – Rob
    Commented Dec 15, 2022 at 22:46
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    @KevinB When ᴏꜰᴀᴄ bans code and when GitHub is putting all repositories of a software read‑only and deletes any users performing newer contributions, would Stack exchange join the cohorts of forums even banning questions and academic publications related to the underlying algorithms ? Period ! Commented Dec 15, 2022 at 23:19
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    @rob It initally received good posts, and I rather think the recent downotes is linked to banning something used only for North Korea and Iran is good mindstep. Commented Dec 15, 2022 at 23:53
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    I'm not familiar with this case, but I really don't understand the intent behind asking this question. SO/SE is a US-based company. You appear to be asking "Will SO, the company, do [some thing] that's illegal for them to do in the US, for which they can be sanctioned (possibly shut down), and people, potentially, held criminally libel?" I don't even see the need to ask such a question. Of course the company is going to abide by the laws in the US. Why would they not comply with those laws? What massive benefit is there to them for not complying which substantially outweighs the negatives?
    – Makyen
    Commented Dec 16, 2022 at 2:26
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    @Makyen you didn t read the question. I was also saying would Stack Exchange try to seek that code is speech in courts? Commented Dec 16, 2022 at 11:40
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    @user2284570 I did read your question. That part of it is, effectively, "Will the company expend millions of dollars to fight a legal battle taking this specific legal position (which may not be beneficial to take) when the gain for them from a business point of view is almost nothing?" Why would Stack Overflow try to fight that battle (particularly by itself)? What benefit is there for them? A couple/few more questions, out of tens of millions of questions??? How could that even remotely be worth it for the company to do? While SO might indicate support, why would they be the one to fight?
    – Makyen
    Commented Dec 16, 2022 at 11:53
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    @Makyen on a reverse example, it s a bit as saying why would Microsoft stop enforcing Chinese laws on speech in China? There are free speech issues on this. Commented Dec 16, 2022 at 11:56
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    We can't know what SE is going to do about the country it resides in "banning" something. What other companies do about it isn't all that relevant.
    – Kevin B
    Commented Dec 16, 2022 at 18:33

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I am not a lawyer, nor am I an employee, so obviously, take an official answer over mine

I was also saying would Stack Exchange try to seek that code is speech in courts?

So far, we've never seen Stack Exchange be particularly activist over such matters. Stack Exchange runs a business of hosted Q&A access (via teams and enterprise) or selling instances of such things for various levels of self hosting. Such a ban is unlikely to be contested, simply because it doesn't make much sense to.

Or would it take the legal safety of the GitHub approach which ended up deleting the accounts of foreign developers immediately without waiting to be asked to do so ?

I've not seen this happen before. That said, the developer of Silk Road has an account, and if I understand correctly - Stack Exchange was asked for information about this

Assuming things haven't changed since they said

We comply with any legally enforceable requests for information from law enforcement agencies.

It seems quite reasonable to assume that

  1. The staff of the company, even those involved directly in the community are not going to be aware of everything the US government does, or everything that goes on over several hundred communities

  2. Its going to take a specific, legally enforceable request to do something. Its worth taking a look at how DMCA takedowns are handled.

  3. Any such actions would need to keep the local mods filled in - and where a specific topic was blocklisted on meta due to company policy, in general it was handled by the community team. Meta might be special, but 'legal' isn't something mods handle, and day to day moderation on a specific site is a 'special' case for the community team, so it'd likely need mods to refer such questions to a community team member or legal.

Which is a lot of words for "The government organisation would need to ask properly, formally and legally, and we'll have to figure out what to do"

I'd note that I've never heard of accounts in good standing being deleted for these reasons and in general, I feel like an account deletion would be the wrong thing to do.

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  • mobile.twitter.com/semenov_roman_/status/1556717890308653059. It is often said Tornado Cash was a mixer online service. But it false and they don t run it and it s how peoples are still using it (website was just a frontend fro a program you can download and run locally). They were statistics proving money laundering isn t the main use of Tornado Cash (at least until data minng services like the Graph took the preventive action to censor statistics usage and access data). They well could decide to sanction hammers or jackhmmers the next time. Commented Dec 17, 2022 at 8:50
  • Well if they banned Jackhammers, someone would either still need to make a formal complaint, or SE would need to decide to ban it to set a precident. And I don't think account deletion would happen - at worst a suspension Commented Dec 17, 2022 at 9:55

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