US adjusts sanctions to help Iranians avoid online surveillance, censorship According to Reuters

By Daphne Psaledakis and Simon Lewis

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The U.S. Treasury Department on Friday issued guidance to expand the range of internet services available to Iranians despite U.S. sanctions against the country, amid protests. surrounding Iran after the death of a 22-year-old woman in custody.

Officials said the move would give Iranians access to tools that could be used to circumvent state surveillance and censorship, but would not completely stop Tehran from using communications tools to prevent dissent, as it did by cutting off most citizens’ internet access on Wednesday.

“As courageous Iranians take to the streets to protest the death of Mahsa Amini, the United States is doubling down on its support for providing free information to the Iranian people,” Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally said. Adeyemo said.

“With these changes, we are helping the Iranian people better equipped to resist the government’s efforts to survey and censor them.”

Adeyemo added that Washington will continue to issue guidance in the coming weeks.

Public outrage in Iran over the death of Mahsa Amini last week shows no sign of abating after days of protests in Tehran and other cities, with protesters torching police stations and vehicles. earlier on Thursday and reports of security forces being attacked.

Amini, a Kurdish woman, was arrested by ethics police in Tehran for wearing “inappropriate attire” and was in a coma while in custody. Authorities said they would investigate the cause of her death.

Internet monitoring group Netblocks on Thursday said a new mobile Internet disruption has been registered in Iran, where access to social networks and some content is tightly restricted. NetBlocks reported “almost complete” disruption to internet connectivity in the capital of the Kurdish region on Monday, linking it to the protests.

Washington has long provided some internet-related exceptions to its sanctions on Iran, but Friday’s update to the general license seeks to modernize them, the Treasury Department said. .

The new license covers social media and video conferencing platforms, and expands access to cloud-based services used to provide virtual private networks (VPNs), providing users of online anonymity and other anti-surveillance tools, according to a Treasury official. reporters on license on condition of anonymity.

The Treasury Department said the license also continues to allow anti-virus, anti-malware and anti-tracking software, and removes an earlier condition that communications are “personal” to Easy compliance for companies.

When asked how the extended license would help Iranians if their government were to shut down internet access again, a State Department official also briefly told reporters that the Iranian government would still have “theirs.” tool of repression for communication.”

The new license makes it “easier for the Iranian people to confront some of those tools of oppression,” the official said. “It doesn’t mean they don’t exist anymore.”

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said Monday that the company wants to provide the company’s Starlink satellite broadband service – which has been provided to Ukraine to fend off Russian aggression – to the Iranians, and would require a punitive exception to do so.

Reporters briefed on the Treasury Department said Starlink’s commercial-grade system, which involves sending hardware into Iran, would not be generally licensed.

“That would be something they would need to put in the Treasury,” the official said.

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