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After protests over Mahsa Amini’s death, US expands access to tech in Iran : NPR

Protesters gather outside the Iranian embassy in Berlin on Tuesday following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in the custody of Iranian morality police.

Michael Sohn/AP


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Michael Sohn/AP


Protesters gather outside the Iranian embassy in Berlin on Tuesday following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in the custody of Iranian morality police.

Michael Sohn/AP

WASHINGTON — The Treasury Department said Friday it is allowing U.S. tech companies to expand operations in Iran, one of the world’s most sanctioned countries, to boost internet access for the Iranian people.

Iran’s government has cut off most internet access for its 80 million citizens in a crackdown on demonstrators protesting the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in the custody of Iran’s morality police.

Vice police arrested Amini last week, saying she did not properly cover her hair with the Islamic headscarf, known as the hijab, which is compulsory for Iranian women. Amini collapsed in a police station and died three days later.

At least nine protesters have been killed in clashes with Iranian security forces since violence erupted over the weekend. US sanctions were imposed Thursday on vice police and law enforcement officials.

The Treasury Department said an updated blanket license issued Friday authorizes technology companies to offer more social media and collaboration platforms, video conferencing and cloud-based services. The updated license also removes the requirement that communications must be “personal”, which the Treasury says imposes on companies the need to verify the purpose of communications.

“As brave Iranians take to the streets to protest the death of Mahsa Amini, the United States redoubles its support for the free flow of information to the people of Iran,” said Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo. , in a press release.

“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 2014, the sanctions branch of the Treasury issued a license authorizing exports of software and services to Iran that would allow the free exchange of communication on the Internet, with the aim of promoting the free flow of information to citizens. Iranians.

Despite the allocation, companies have been reluctant to do business in Iran for fear of violating existing sanctions and other laws that impose penalties.

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