U.S. Approves Technology to Circumvent Iran Internet Crackdown


Pro-government Iranians rallying in Tehran on Friday against recent protest gatherings.



WASHINGTON—The U.S. is giving Iranians access to export-controlled technology that will allow them to circumvent the clerical regime’s latest communications crackdown, including a new internet blackout imposed this week.

The Treasury Department on Friday responded to Tehran’s restriction of internet access in large parts of the country by issuing a new license that allows U.S. companies to provide Iranians with cyber services that can help them to maintain digital connection to the world.

Iranian authorities have moved to quell a building women’s rights protest movement sparked by the death of 22-year-old

Mahsa Amini

late last week in police custody for allegedly violating Iran’s strict Islamic dress code. Protests have turned violent with security forces using tear gas and firing live ammunition.

The U.S. Treasury subsequently Thursday sanctioned Iran’s morality police and senior security officials. To counter Tehran’s internet blackout—which target’s the movement’s reliance on social media to express dissent and rally support—the Treasury issued a license that authorizes U.S. companies to offer Iran citizens secure internet platforms and services. A license is needed as that technology is otherwise banned under an economywide sanctions program.

“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 accompanying the action. “We are helping the Iranian people be better equipped to counter the government’s efforts to surveil and censor them,” he said.

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

The new license applies to software, but not the hardware that tech billionaire and SpaceX Chief Executive Officer

Elon Musk

is seeking to provide services in Iran for his satellite-internet system Starlink, which could help boost access to outside information in the country.

U.S. lawmakers on Thursday urged the U.S. Treasury Department to authorize Mr. Musk’s application.

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

Write to Ian Talley at [email protected]

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