U.S. Approves Technology to Circumvent Iran Internet Crackdown


Pro-government Iranians demonstrated in Tehran on Friday against recent protests.


Photo:

WANA NEWS AGENCY/via REUTERS

WASHINGTON — The US is giving the Iranians access to export-controlled technology that will allow them to circumvent recent crackdowns on the clerical communications system, including a new internet blackout imposed this week.

The Treasury Department on Friday responded to Tehran’s restrictions on internet access across much of the country by issuing a new license that would allow US companies to provide Iranians with cyber services that can help them stay digitally connected to the world.

Iranian authorities have taken action to quell a protest movement for women’s rights sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody late last week for allegedly violating Iran’s strict Islamic dress code. The protests have turned violent, with security forces using tear gas and firing live ammunition.

The US Treasury Department then imposed sanctions on Iran’s morality police and senior security officials on Thursday. To counter Tehran’s internet blackout – which aims to ensure the movement’s reliance on social media to express dissent and rally support – the Treasury Department has issued a license authorizing US companies to provide Iranian citizens with secure internet platforms and to offer services. A license is required, otherwise this technology is banned under an economy-wide sanctions program.

“The United States is doubling down on its support for the free flow of information to the Iranian people,” Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said in a statement accompanying the action. “We are helping the Iranian people to be better equipped to counter government efforts to monitor and censor them,” he said.

Protests continue across Iran over the death of a young woman who was held in custody for allegedly violating the country’s strict Islamic dress code. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said Thursday the incident was under investigation. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Further guidance will be issued in the coming weeks, expanding on this latest effort, Mr Adeyemo added.

The new license applies to software, but not hardware, that tech billionaire and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk plans to bring to Iran for its Starlink satellite internet system, which could help improve access to outside information in the country.

US lawmakers on Thursday asked the US Treasury Department to approve Mr Musk’s request.

Iranian officials said the Western response to Ms Amini’s death reflects a double standard of criticizing Tehran while allowing other abuses.

write to Ian Talley at [email protected]

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