AP

US allows tech firms to boost internet access in Iran

Sep 22, 2022, 7:55 PM | Updated: Sep 23, 2022, 1:16 pm

FILE - In this photo taken by an individual not employed by the Associated Press and obtained by th...

FILE - In this photo taken by an individual not employed by the Associated Press and obtained by the AP outside Iran, protesters chant slogans during a protest over the death of a woman who was detained by the morality police, in downtown Tehran, Iran, Sept. 21, 2022. (AP Photo, File)

(AP Photo, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — American tech firms will be allowed to expand their business in Iran, where most internet access has been cut off in response to anti-government protests, the Treasury Department said Friday.

Iran has been cracking down on demonstrators protesting the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in the custody of its morality police. Iranian state TV suggests that as many as 26 protesters and police have been killed since violence erupted over the weekend.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the move will help counter the government’s surveillance efforts.

“It is clear that the Iranian government is afraid of its own people,” Blinken said in an emailed statement. “Mahsa Amini is senselessly, tragically dead, and now the government is violently suppressing peaceful protesters rightly angry about her loss.”

The morality police detained Amini last week, saying she didn’t properly cover her hair with the Islamic headscarf, known as the hijab. Amini collapsed at a police station and died three days later.

U.S. sanctions were imposed Thursday on the morality police and leaders of other law enforcement agencies.

The Treasury Department said an updated general license issued Friday authorizes tech firms to offer more social media and collaboration platforms, video conferencing and cloud-based services.

The updated license also removes the condition that communications be “personal,” which Treasury said was burdening companies with the need to verify the purpose of the communications.

“As courageous Iranians take to the streets to protest the death of Mahsa Amini, the United States is redoubling its support for the free flow of information to the Iranian people,” Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said in a statement.

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

The United Nations has called for an investigation into Amini’s death.

Amir Rashidi, an exiled Iranian who is director of internet security and digital rights at Miaan Group, said lifting restrictions will help Iranians bypass censorship.

“Also it’s going to provide Iranians with safety and security,” he said. “When you can have your data outside the country Iranian security services cannot unlawfully access your data because your data is protected by international law outside Iran.”

In 2014, Treasury’s sanctions arm issued a license authorizing exports of software and services to Iran that would allow the free exchange of communication over the internet, with the intent to foster the free flow of information to Iranian citizens.

Even so, U.S. firms have been reluctant to do business in Iran, due to fears of violating existing sanctions and other laws that impose penalties.

On Monday, Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted that his satellite internet firm Starlink would seek permission to operate in Iran. National security adviser Jake Sullivan said it was up to Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control to decide on Starlink’s next steps.

The White House said the move, along with a recent increase in sanctions, does not affect the administration’s plans to reenter the Iran nuclear deal.

“We have concerns, we do, with Iran,” said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, but pursuing the Iran deal “is the best way for us to address the nuclear problem.”

___

Associated Press writer Frank Bajak contributed to this report from Boston.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Juanita Beach Kirkland...

Kathy McCormack and Nick Perry, The Associated Press

‘Tis the season for swimming and bacteria alerts in lakes, rivers

With summer about to start, many people flocking to their favorite swimming holes may also want to read up on bacteria warnings.

19 hours ago

Image: Members of the Makah Indian tribe paddle away from the rising sun as they head from Neah Bay...

Associated Press

Washington’s Makah Tribe clears major hurdle toward resuming traditional whale hunts

The U.S. granted the Makah Indian Tribe a long-sought waiver that helps clear the way for its first sanctioned whale hunts since 1999.

2 days ago

jerry west...

Tim Reynolds, The Associated Press

Jerry West, a 3-time Hall of Fame selection and the NBA logo, dies at 86

Jerry West, a three-time Basketball Hall of Fame inductee whose silhouette is considered to be the basis of the NBA logo, died Wednesday morning.

3 days ago

Photo: Construction vehicles are parked outside of the Station U & O building on Tuesday, June 11, ...

Haleluya Hadero, The Associated Press

Amazon adds $1.4B to affordable housing fund for regions where it has corporate offices

Amazon is adding $1.4B to a fund for building more affordable housing in regions where the company has major corporate offices.

4 days ago

hunter biden...

Randall Chase and the Associated Press

Hunter Biden convicted of all 3 felony charges in federal gun trial

Hunter Biden has been convicted of all three felony charges related to the purchase of a revolver in 2018, but no sentencing date was set.

4 days ago

Photo: A Bremerton man who made 20 "swatting" calls around the U.S. and in Canada, prompting real e...

Associated Press

Bremerton man sentenced for 20 ‘swatting’ calls of false threats in US, Canada

A Bremerton man who made 20 "swatting" calls around the U.S. and in Canada, prompting real emergency responses, has been sentenced.

5 days ago

US allows tech firms to boost internet access in Iran