The United States announced on Friday the lifting of certain trade bans with Iran, in order to allow technology companies to provide platforms and services that allow Iranians to access the Internet, access to which has been severely limited by the authorities.
The Biden administration has thus relaxed certain sanctions directed at Iran, in order to authorize “tech companies to offer the Iranian people more options for secure external platforms and services,” the US Treasury Department announced in a statement. of press.
“The United States is taking steps to support the free flow of information and access to factual information for the people of Iran,” the ministry added.
Iranian authorities have imposed drastic restrictions on the internet, including blocking access to Instagram and WhatsApp, due to protests sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini, a young woman detained by the morality police.
The NGOs accuse the Iranian authorities of trying to limit the concentration capacity of the demonstrators and being able to repress them behind closed doors.
The upgrade will “expand the range of Internet services available to Iranians,” to help “better equipped the Iranian people to counter government efforts to monitor and censor them,” Treasury Deputy Secretary Wally Adeyemo said in a statement. release.
However, the move’s impact may not be immediate because “it does not remove all tools to suppress communications,” administration officials acknowledged in a conference call with reporters.
But “over time, it will give the Iranian people more tools to deal with these repressive efforts by the Iranian government.”
“The Iranian government has cut off Internet access to most of its 80 million citizens to prevent them, and the world, from seeing its violent crackdown on peaceful protesters,” said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. in a separate press release.
He added that Washington “will help ensure that the Iranian people do not remain isolated and ignorant.”
“Over the coming weeks, OFAC (Office of Foreign Assets Control) will continue to issue guidance to support the administration’s commitment to promoting the free flow of information, which the Iranian regime has always denied its people,” said Wally Adeyemo.
On Monday, billionaire Elon Musk had indicated that his aerospace company SpaceX intended to apply to the US administration for an exemption from sanctions against Tehran in order to offer Internet connection services in Iran through its Starlink satellite constellation.
Its services are not part of the relaxations announced Friday and, in fact, the company will have to apply for a specific exemption, a management official said during Friday’s conference call.
Members of the US Congress, Democrats and Republicans, this week sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen urging her to ease restrictions on Internet services to Iran, “clarify rules on providing services to the people of Iran” and “expedite all related license applications from companies (…) including Starlink”.
At least 17 people have been killed since the protests began in Iran, according to a state media report.