After an ease in export restrictions, Google is making Google Earth, Picasa, and Chrome available for download in Syria — a country that been faced with international pressure and US sanctions over concerns of human rights abuses. Google released the same programs in Iran earlier this year after a similar export ban was lifted, and the company says that “free expression is a fundamental human right and a core value.” Back in February in his Mobile World Congress keynote, Google’s Eric Schmidt referenced “Assad’s brutality” and said that while governments will try to control networks, efforts to block Google services will fail.
Google’s decision to introduce Earth, Picasa, and Chrome in Syria also line up with the US government’s hopes for private influence in the Middle East. Back in March, at the same time Google released the same three services in Iran, the Obama administration announced efforts to subvert Iran’s alleged internet censorship efforts by allowing the export of free software like Google Talk, Skype, Dropbox, Chrome, Firefox, and other programs. While Google is announcing its new offerings for Syria today, the US Office of Foreign Assets Control authorized export of free instant messaging, social networking, media sharing, browsing, and blogging services on August 18th, 2011.