There is more anecdotal evidence of US-imposed censorship of Google Earth in certain countries. A commenter with an IP address in Syria reports that attempts to download Google Earth in Syria now meet the same fate as those in Sudan, due to US export restrictions and economics sanctions. Meanwhile, blogger Macu at Milfuegos reports that a slew of Google products is not available in Cuba, including Google Earth. I’m trying to get confirmation in both cases.
It’s not clear in either (likely) case whether this enforcement of US-imposed sanctions laws is a recent change — I suspect not. That doesn’t make it any less stupid. If I lament the fact that users in Morocco (such as today’s commenter) continue to be prevented by their own government from using Google Earth, I certainly can’t applaud the US government doing it pre-emptively for the Syrian, Sudanese and Cuban governments. Google and Google Earth help level the informational playing field between political elites and the masses in those countries where democracy is lacking, which makes it easier for those citizens to demand accountability. The US sanctions regime in each of these cases is badly targeted: By prohibiting access to a software application that is actually a browser of georeferenced information, the US is effectively censoring this information among those people who could use it most.
Meanwhile, those who live in Morocco, Sudan, Syria or Cuba can use Tor to spoof their country of origin to Google’s servers. The only problem: It is very slow, so not optimal for Google Earth’s streaming data.