Slack bans people who used app while on holiday in countries US doesn't like

Sanctioned countries include Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Syria and the Crimea region of Ukraine

Anthony Cuthbertson
Friday 21 December 2018 11:59 GMT
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The Slack messaging app was down across Windows, Mac, iOS and Android platforms on Wednesday 27 June
The Slack messaging app was down across Windows, Mac, iOS and Android platforms on Wednesday 27 June (REUTERS)

Slack has banned accounts with alleged links to countries under US sanctions, despite some users of the workplace chat app claiming they only visited them on holiday.

In a message to affected users, Slack said accounts would be closed "effective immediately," in order to comply with laws and regulations imposed by the US government.

Sanctioned countries and regions include Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Syria and the Crimea region of Ukraine.

"In order to comply with export control and economic sanctions laws and regulations promulgated by the US Department of Commerce and the US Department of Treasury, Slack prohibits unauthorised use of its products and services in certain sanctioned countries," the message to affected users stated.

"We've identified your team/ account as originating from one of those countries and are closing the account effective immediately."

Some users affected by the ban took to social media to complain about not being able to appeal the decision.

"So @SlackHQ decided to send me this email," one user wrote on Twitter. "No way to appeal this decision. No way to prove that I'm not living in Iran and not working with Iranians on Slack. Nope. Just hello we're banning your account."

Another user said in a post on the website Hacker News that his wife's account was suddenly closed without warning, resulting in the loss of years of files and messages.

"She created the account while travelling in Cuba (legally) years ago and hasn't been back to Cuba or any other sanctioned country since," the user wrote.

"She is a co-founder of an org that uses Slack heavily and has now lost access to all her messages and files from the past couple years of work. There appears to be no appeal process here."

A spokesperson for Slack told The Independent the bans were based on the geolocation data of its users.

"Slack complies with the US regulations related to embargoed countries and regions, as does every US-based company. We updated our system for applying geolocation information, which relies on IP addresses, and that led to the deactivations for accounts tied to embargoed countries," the spokesperson said.

"We only utilise IP addresses to take these actions. We do not possess information about nationality or the ethnicity of our users. If users think we’ve made a mistake in blocking their access, please reach out to feedback@slack.com and we’ll review as soon as possible."

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