U.S. sanctions bar Crimean gamers from World of Warcraft

crimean sanctions blizzard warcraft crimea
As if things needed to be any worse in Crimea, now they can’t play World of Warcraft or Diablo III anymore. The Moscow Times reports that, in compliance with western sanctions against the disputed Crimean peninsula, Blizzard Entertainment has suspended access to Battle.net, the online framework that powers its popular games like StarCraft II, Diablo III, Hearthstone, and World of Warcraft.

“In accordance with current trade regulations relating to the region of Crimea, we are legally required to suspend access to your Battle.net account,” read the company’s notice, sent to its Crimean users.

In December, 2014, the U.S. government levied sanctions against Crimea, barring American companies from investing in or providing services to companies in the region. Blizzard is the most recent in a growing list of major American Internet and tech companies to suspend services to Crimean users, following big players like Apple, Google, and PayPal.

In February several advocacy groups, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Open Technology Institute, sent a letter to the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control expressing concerns that the sanctions, as written, would unnecessarily punish civilians in the region by restricting the free flow of information and isolating the population from the rest of the world.

“OFAC released three general licenses for the Crimea sanctions program, which authorized transactions related to personal remittances, mail, and telecommunications services,” the letter reads. “These general licenses follow a decades-old precedent that sanctions should not impede the free flow of information or contribute to the isolation of individuals living in embargoed countries.”

The licenses do not include, however, access to Internet-based services, software, and hardware, which have surpassed telephony and snail mail as the dominant communication channels for many people around the world. Similar sanctions in Cuba and Iran have already been expanded to include these allowances, “based on the recognition that information technologies offer unprecedented opportunities for independent media, person-to-person exchange, and documentation of human rights violations.”

Sanctions were imposed by the U.S. government following the annexation of the Crimean peninsula from the Ukraine by the Russian Federation in March 2014. Former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych was ousted by popular uprising in February after signing a trade agreement with Russia instead of the EU. Fighting broke out between the interim Ukrainian government and Russia-backed separatists in Crimean peninsula. Despite protestation from Russian president Vladimir Putin that the Crimean independence referendum was in accordance with international law, the Ukraine, NATO, United Nations General Assembly, and many world leaders have condemned it as an illegal annexation, in direct violation of the 1994 Budapest Memorandum on Ukrainian sovereignty, which Russia signed.

The U.S. sanctions were instituted as part of an international effort to put economic pressure on Crimea and Russia, but have raised substantial questions about whether measures like this do more harm to innocent citizens than the governments they are intended to punish. The critical role played by social media in the events of the Arab Spring has underlined how crucial these online tools can be in empowering citizens living under oppressive regimes. In light of the recent American debate about Net Neutrality, it is increasingly apparent that the international community needs to establish clear standards about whether internet access is a luxury service, subject to the whims of capitalism, or a basic human right.

Gaming

These are the must-have games that every Xbox One owner needs

More than four years into its life span, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From Cuphead to Halo 5, the best Xbox One games offer something for players of every type.
Gaming

Your PlayStation 4 game library isn't complete without these games

Looking for the best PS4 games out there? Out of the massive crop of titles available, we selected the best you should buy. No matter what your genre of choice may be, there's something here for you.
Gaming

Make some room in your backlog. Here are all the games to look out for in 2019

2019 is already a huge year for video games, with a large number of series getting new installments, including some that have been dormant for years. Brand new franchises are also being created.
Gaming

These are the classic NES games that helped redefine gaming

The NES left an indelible mark on pop culture and revolutionized the gaming industry. Check out our picks for the best NES games, whether you prefer an immersive RPG, side-scrolling brawler, or something else entirely.
Gaming

How do the revised Xbox One and PlayStation 4 consoles stack up?

Microsoft's new Xbox One S and Sony's PlayStation 4 "Slim" have bucked the generational gaming console trend. But which of these stopgap systems is worth spending your paycheck on?
Gaming

Our Fortnite: Battle Royale building tips and tricks will help you survive

Fortnite: Battle Royale sets itself apart from PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds with its building mechanics. From gathering resources, to making cover on the fly, to building towers, here is how to build like a pro.
Computing

HP’s Omen Mindframe headset keeps your ears chill, but might leave you lukewarm

The Omen Mindframe headset uses HP's FrostCap technology to keep ears cool during long gaming sections. While it delivers on keeping ears cool, it forgets some of the essentials of a quality gaming headset.
Gaming

Apex Legends cheaters reportedly being kicked out with permanent hardware bans

Respawn Entertainment has reportedly started issuing permanent hardware bans against Apex Legends cheaters. The studio is raising the bar on how cheating in online multiplayer games should be dealt with.
Gaming

Nintendo Switch controllers will soon be compatible with Google Chrome

Nintendo Switch controllers will soon be supported by Google Chrome, according to a new commit spotted by 9to5Google. The code is likely related to Google's Project Stream game streaming service.
Gaming

Hearthstone: Rise of Shadows shines the spotlight on Warcraft villains

Rise of Shadows, the next expansion for Hearthstone, will shine the spotlight on villains. The set will kick off the Year of the Dragon with 135 new cards and two mechanics, and will start the game's first-ever year-long storyline.
Gaming

New Sony patent suggests a wireless PSVR headset could be on the way

Images and documents in the Japan Patent Office appear to suggest that Sony is planning a wireless version of the PlayStation VR headset. It isn't clear which system it will be used for.
Gaming

Get over here! All the details on next week’s Mortal Kombat 11 closed beta

Mortal Kombat 11 will hold its closed beta period from March 28 through March 31, giving those who pre-ordered the game the chance to check it out prior to its official launch in April.
Gaming

Amazon drops a deal on SteelSeries Arctis 3 gaming headset for Nintendo Switch

Amazon is currently running a deal on the SteelSeries Arctis 3 gaming headset, which is compatible with Nintendo Switch as well as Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC, mobile, and virtual reality.
Gaming

How do Nintendo Switch, Xbox One X compare to each other? We find out

The Nintendo Switch is innovative enough to stand apart from traditional consoles, but could it become your primary gaming system? How does the Switch stack up against the Xbox One?