US issues license to extend Internet access to Iranians

The US Treasury Department said on Friday it was updating guidance to US tech companies to expand the range of internet services available to Iranians, countering a move by the Iranian government this week to block internet access to its citizens. .

As street protests continued in Iran on Wednesday, the Iranian government cut off internet access to most of its 83 million citizens, the Treasury Department said, to keep the world from watching its violent crackdown on peaceful protesters.

People took to the streets this week to protest over the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who died after being taken into custody by vice squad for improperly wearing her headscarf. Iranian security forces have responded by violently suppressing the protests, killing at least nine people so far. According to the Associated Press, Iranian state television suggested the death toll could be as high as 26.

In a statement, Assistant Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said the changes released Friday through the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) will call on US-based technology companies to provide more digital services to Iranians — from access to cloud computing services to better tools — to improve their online security and privacy.

Adeyemo said, “With these changes, we are helping the people of Iran to be better equipped to counter the government’s efforts to monitor and censor them. In the coming weeks, OFAC will continue to issue guidelines to support the administration’s commitment to promoting the free flow of information, which the Iranian regime has consistently denied its people.

In his own statement on Friday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the actions taken by the Treasury Department would help ensure “the people of Iran are not isolated and in the dark.”

“This is a concrete step to provide meaningful support to Iranians demanding that their basic rights be respected,” he said.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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