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ltaravilse's blog

By ltaravilse, history, 3 years ago, In English,

I've been thinking of this lately, and I realized that we can't allow this to keep happening. There is a serious discrimination problem in the programming contest community and we can't act as if it doesn't happen.

The first problem I saw was the IOI in Iran, a country that discriminates people according to their religion. How many of you know that Jewish people can't enter into Iran? What does it mean? If you are Jewish, just for your religious beliefs, you can't go to the IOI.

That was the first thing I noticed that I think is a serious problem, but then I saw something else, that I felt that I had to share with all the community, and ask everyone in the competitive programming community to please share with everyone and try, all together, to see if we can make the people in charge of this to make a decision that changes this horrible discriminative situation.

I was in Cuba in the last three weeks. I was in charge of the Caribbean Training Camp for competitive programming. I've been in several events like this in a lot of places in Latin America and I can say for sure that there's no other place in Latin America were people make as much effort and dedication as they do in Cuba. They all want to improve, to be everyday better than the day before, and they do a very big effort to make their competitive programming community get stronger.

There are 24 universities in Cuba that have degrees related to informatics and computer sciences, all of them send teams to the ACM ICPC. In my three weeks in Cuba they made me feel like I was at home, they did for me a lot of things that it's very hard to do them for their own because of the situation they have in Cuba, specially the economic situation. And no matter what, they always give more than what they have, not only for me, but for everyone who tries to help them.

I made a lot of very good friends there, and one day I asked one of them how did he do on the last Google Code Jam, and his answer was the worst possible answer I could expect: Cuban people are not allowed to compete on Google Code Jam. They are also not allowed to compete in a lot of other programming contests, and there are many contests where they can compete but not receive prizes if they win.

I don't care if Donald Trump, Barack Obama or George Bush are angry with Fidel and Raúl Castro, they are just the Cuban politicians, and the Cuban people don't have to pay for their president's mistakes. I also know that politicians, specially in the US, don't care about people outside their country, they make their people believe that they are the heroes and all the other people in the world are villains (specially if they have some political rivalry or if they have oil and need to be invaded like what happened in Afghanistan or Irak) and people, sadly, believe what they say, but why the big companies, that host this kind of events, like Google does, have to act according to their politicians interests?

I feel ashamed that this very nice community that I feel part of, is allowing this kind of things to happen, and I can't stand it. So I ask all of you, competitive programmers, to please, help me ask every organizer of a programming contest to stop harassing the Cuban people, and tell everybody about what they are doing.

If you ignore this situation, you are helping this happen.

 
 
 
 
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3 years ago, # |
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I understand how you feel — Yes. Damned politics are tearing people apart. But seriously, is there anything Google can do? They are ultimately in this system, and they are not able to invite or send something to Cuba — otherwise it'll be illegal. For IOI, things are more complex. But if Iran is incapable of holding any kind of international event for that, then how South Korea is able to hold an huge Olympics event even if North Koreans can't freely come here? (I know it's kinda exaggrated, but I hope you got the point)

I "believe" that countries are political, but people are not. And I think your problems are due to that political countries, not because of competitive programmers. People should always be aware of politics. But you know, people who try to change such discrimination, receives Nobel Peace prizes, even if they fail.

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    3 years ago, # ^ |
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    Nobel Peace prizes are completely political now, though. Obama received his after a few months as president (and not like it was for something he did before), then fucked up a lot of countries attempting to reduce Russian and Chinese global influence. Even decades ago, there was a similar case with Kissinger receiving it.

    People who really change things don't care about prizes.

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3 years ago, # |
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I don't think this is a bad will of GCJ organizers. I'd rather say it's some kind of legal problem that Google (or any other contest organizer) can't do much about. You can't break international laws, even if you are Google.

Why I think so? First, the countries are more or less the same for various competitions. Second, e.g. GCJ has this rule in the same sentence with "anywhere that the Contest is prohibited by law". Maybe it's even a problem with Cuba's law, not U.S. law?

I have noticed that contests from Russia seem to not have this problem. Maybe a solution is to set up the organizer's location to Russia. Although that would probably need something doubtful, like creating a fake organization.

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    3 years ago, # ^ |
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    It's not true that it's illegal to allow Cuban people to participate in GCJ just because it's in the US because a Cuban team participated in the ACM ICPC in South Dakota and they even won the Latin American Champion Award.

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3 years ago, # |
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The first problem I saw was the IOI in Iran, a country that discriminates people according to their religion. How many of you know that Jewish people can't enter into Iran? What does it mean? If you are Jewish, just for your religious beliefs, you can't go to the IOI.

Actually, that's not it. Iran does not recognise Israel as a state, not Judaism as a religion or Jewish ethnicity, so it's for political reasons. You can't enter Iran on an Israeli passport (or a passport with Israeli visa etc), but you might not even be asked if you're Jewish, and there are Jews in Iran, officially recognised.

Ffs people, research things before posting.

Btw organising countries of olympiads have been forbidding entry to other countries for a while now. It's not a new thing.

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    3 years ago, # ^ |
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    I don't know how it works in other countries but in Argentina, where I live, there were students who couldn't participate in the contest for choosing the IOI team because they were Jewish. I think it may be related to the fact that they went several times to Israel, but anyways, it's not fair.

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      3 years ago, # ^ |
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      If they went to Israel, gotta get a blank passport (non-Israeli passport) and they should be allowed to go to IOI; if they still can't participate in the selection, that's no fault of the international olympiad. Like I mentioned, there are Jews in Iran and going to Iran.

      Yes, it's not fair. In this case, you can hardly do anything about it (might as well focus on building the Third Temple), but there need to be some agreements between countries to let olympiad delegations in regardless of reasons not related directly to the olympiads.

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3 years ago, # |
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What about the following idea?

Let's say that countries A and B want to hold IOI and they allow entries for sets of countries S1 and S2. If S2 is a subset of S1 and S1 contains something more, the country A should host the contest.

EDIT: are sets of allowed countries known at all? Organizers can't promise that visas will be granted. So maybe this idea doesn't make any sense.

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    3 years ago, # ^ |
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    I don't know how things work in other countries, but for example, in most countries in Latin America, nobody's entry is denied based on religion, country of origin or ethnicity. Maybe in some countries people are used to this kind of discrimination, but for me, it's still not something normal and I can't get used to it.

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    3 years ago, # ^ |
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    But frankly there are several countries that are pretty neutral and almost every person can travel there. For instance, I don't know of any country that should have problems traveling to Japan next year for IOI.

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      3 years ago, # ^ |
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      How about north korea? I think their admission would be refused.

      Source

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        3 years ago, # ^ |
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        There are so many Japan-born people with North Korean nationality and some North Korean athletes are coming to sports competitions, so I guess the government would accept.

        However, judging from the incident at IMO 2016 and the fact North Korean ICPC team didn't compete in World Finals 2017 held in USA, they won't send hopeful youths to a risky (for the government) country. It's more likely that Japan-born North Korean students participate instead.

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          2 years ago, # ^ |
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          Quite the contrary, in my opinion. Judging by the IMO incident, maybe even two teams from North Korea will go to IOI, in order to maximize the number of hopeful youths who want to leave North Korea.

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    3 years ago, # ^ |
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    My opinion is that the requirements on host countries should be extremely strict — organising an international olympiad is a privilege, not a right, and the organisers are responsible for their state's (foreseeable) actions.

    Each year's host should be selected with full knowledge of which countries will be or will probably be banned for whichever reasons. These countries' delegations have to okay it unanimously (otherwise it's practically equivalent to the olympiad banning a country for no reason other than because it's convenient) and hold responsibility towards their students for not letting them participate. Any changes in this status should be treated as a crisis potentially requiring the change of host country.

    That deals with the decision which countries are banned based on preexisting laws — usually known well in advance. Then there are situations where you need to request visa or request entry to the country in question (I heard US immigration officers have the power to just turn people away at the border) or other administrative reasons, which is not a problem if someone sufficiently high up in the government says "let these people in"; hosts should have the responsibility to ensure that will happen if there's any problem and the host country should be subject to equal punishment otherwise, for example a temporary ban.

    The only serious point of failure for this is scaring away countries to the point of not being able to find anyone to host the next olympiad, but if that's the case, then everything was horribly dysfunctional already.

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      3 years ago, # ^ |
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      Yeah, but the reality is that there are not many countries who would like to organize an IOI, even with the current requirements. There may be only 0-1 candidates.

      In 2013, when Iran was announced to be the host of IOI 2017, everybody already knew that Israel will not get an invitation.

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        3 years ago, # ^ |
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        That's quite true. It seems like most countries are not desperate to host an IOI for example:

        "Dear colleagues,

        [...]

        We have not yet received any official communication from countries interested in hosting IOI’2021. This is an anomalous situation, but also an opportunity for countries that have considered hosting the Olympiad but not yet made a formal bid."

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      3 years ago, # ^ |
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      I heard US immigration officers have the power to just turn people away at the border

      As far as I know, it's not unique to US and European immigration officers also have such power. It's just not advertised as much.

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3 years ago, # |
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but why the big companies, that host this kind of events, like Google does, have to act according to their politicians interests?

Answer is simple: legal issues. Few examples (mainly heard on the grapevine):

  • Google Code Jam is void in Crimea, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Syria. My guess is that it's because you can potentially win prizes by winning the competition and Google is prohibited from doing business with these countries as a US-based company. Say, AdWords does not work there as well. Moreover, these laws are enforceable to Google — it has a lot of business in the US.
  • Google Code Jam is void in Quebec — that's one of Canada's provinces. There are no US sanctions against Canada or Quebec. This article says that Quebec laws are pretty strict regarding any kind of contests with prizes — the organizer has to do a lot of bureaucracy (e.g. register rules with Quebec's government, file a written report after the competition), provide Quebec's government with some power (to mediate any lawsuits, to determine whether it's ok to change rules) and follow a bunch of other rules and regulations. That's quite a burden on the organizer, so it's much easier to just declare the contest void there. I'm also not sure that it's even possible to hold an international competition which would comply to all Quebec's laws. Again, Google has some business in Canada, so these laws are quite enforceable.

I guess the main reason why Russia-based contest do not have such restrictions is because nobody really cares that much about legal issues, so nobody took time to investigate and ask a group of lawyers to review. Moreover, OFAC sanctions (Cuba, North Korea, etc), afaik, are for US-based companies only, so they do not apply here at all. As for Quebec, I doubt a Russian company can care less about Quebec's opinion (unless they have a lot of offices and business in Canada).

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    3 years ago, # ^ |
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    The problem with prizes is not a valid excuse.

    Most people, including myself for example, compete for glory much more than for money. At least Google could say "You can participate but you can't win prizes even if you rank first at all rounds" and that's much better.

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      3 years ago, # ^ |
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      At least Google could say "You can participate but you can't win prizes even if you rank first at all rounds" and that's much better.

      I'm not a lawyer, but I believe that it may imply something very tricky from legal standpoint. For example, it may require that GCJ is separated into two separate contests — one with prizes and one is without, where "separate" is determined solely by prosecutor's interpretation. For example, even sharing a problemset may be considered unlawful.

      Interpreting law is much harder than trying to solve a very hard problem with a very bad statement.

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3 years ago, # |
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and the Cuban people don't have to pay for their president's mistakes

Welcome to the real world, where politics matters. If it's a political matter, then it can be resolved in either political or some shadowy illegal way only, isn't it?

Another example is ACM ICPC this year. If I remember correctly, about 15 persons were unable to get their visas in time due to Administrative Processing/Security Advisory Opinion or were simply denied their visas. Some teams were unable to participate at all, while some teams were able to participate with only 1 or 2 participants. For example, some teams from Russia.

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3 years ago, # |
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There was discussion of the ban of GCJ in several countries some time ago here.

Quote from onufryw comment: "The argument "TopCoder did it, so it's obviously OK" isn't very strong. As Xellos says, law is open to interpretation. And people (and countries) are much more likely to sue Google than they are to sue TopCoder over the same thing."

I think you're wrong by blaming contest organizer. For GCJ, they probably need to follow what Legal team in Google say. They can't do whatever they want, unless they want to lose their job, get company in law suit and destroy the contest for everyone.

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    3 years ago, # ^ |
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    Make a submission to GCJ from Quebec. Sue Google for 1M $ :)

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3 years ago, # |
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Jewish people can enter Iran, and there are Jewish people living legally in Iran. Iran just does not allow Israeli people to enter. But that's still extremely unfair. You shouldn't be allowed to host an international competition if you discriminate against citizens of some country.

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3 years ago, # |
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Countries like Cuba have much bigger problems than not being eligible for programming competitions. Cubans don't even have access to the affordable internet.

I don't think programming community is able to do anything about it. They need to solve more serious issues first.

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    3 years ago, # ^ |
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    I agree that they don't have good access to Internet, but at least they have access from their universities for example.

    Look at this list: http://codeforces.com/ratings/country/Cuba

    You can see that they can compete if they want (and you can be sure that they do twice the effort that you or me do for competing, or even more)

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      3 years ago, # ^ |
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      I don't question their abilities and motivation

      But general population can't access internet like you or me

      Do you know why they are having such problems? Because of their former relationship with Soviet union and communists.

      Guess what? All the communist and former soviet countries can participate in any contest. So it seems stupid that Cuba still remains under embargo. You need to help them to get rid of that embargo first if you want them to be competing more.

      There are some countries at war and they won't welcome people from enemy countries, nothing can be done about it (here at least)

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3 years ago, # |
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I'm really, really disappointed when I saw this topic rating: 10 hours ago it was +270 but now it was +251. I think this is very serious problem and ltaravilse wrote the true story. I think there is no reason to downvote. But why people downvoted this blog? Why?

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    3 years ago, # ^ |
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    The author of this post proposes to take some action against discrimination (like asking the organizers to do something, telling everyone about it and so on) and then accuses people who refuse to do it of "helping this happen".

    While I'm pretty sure that no one supports this kind of discrimination here, people can have reasonable objections to the solution he suggested (because they believe it won't change anything, for instance). "Helping this happen" is a very blatant accusation.

    It can be interpreted (I'm not saying that it's what he actually meant) as: if you don't do as I say, you are wrong.

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      3 years ago, # ^ |
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      I'm sorry if that's what you interpreted of my post.

      It's just that, probably for cultural reasons, I can't stand when somebody recognizes a social problem and don't do anything about it, and in the society where I live, most people are that way. That's why I say that if you see this problem and you don't do anything about this you're helping this happen.

      Maybe it's different for you kraskevich, I can ask you, what do people say about homophobia in Russia? In Argentina if someone says something homophobic, the society will instantly turn against the person who does so, if in Russia it's different, now you understand why we see things in a different way.

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        3 years ago, # ^ |
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        That's not how I personally interpreted the post. I just tried to explain why some people could downvote it (I didn't downvote). I don't think that there's much we can do about it, though, because this kind of discrimination happens due to legal reasons, not because companies really want to discriminate against someone.

        It's hard to tell what the overall stance over homophobia in Russia is right now because it's different across different environments (rural vs. urban, blue collar vs. white collar workers and so on). I would say that in general most of the people don't care about homosexuality that much (they don't hate homosexuals but they don't really react to homophobia in any meaningful way either).

        I don't agree that doing something is always good, though. Doing something that really helps to solve the problem definitely is. Just doing something for the sake of doing something can do more harm than good or be completely useless in some cases (I'm talking about social issues in general, not the problem mentioned in your post). We can't, say, change the situation in North Korea (or any other dictatorship) or stop hunger in specific regions of Africa by writing about it on social media.

        In fact, in some cases it goes too far in another direction when normal people are labeled as racist, homophobic, misogynistic and so for merely disagreeing with someone's narrative or political agenda. While I agree that we need to do something about social problems, I strongly disagree with the idea that there's only one way to solve a problem and deviating from it means helping it happen.

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          3 years ago, # ^ |
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          The way I interpret "If you ignore this situation, you are helping this happen." Is that almost everyone with a minimum of sense of justice must feel indignant with this issue, and do something about it, at least say it or agree this is so unfair, but this is a democracy so everyone is free to agree or disagree with. But, I believe that as a community we shuold recognize the problem and act on it because in the future anyone else can be the victim.