Treasury Department helps expand internet access to Iranian people amid violent government crackdown

Francisco Seco/AP Photo
·3 min read

The Department of Treasury announced Friday it was updating guidance to expand internet service to Iranians, most of whom have been cut off from the internet by their own government amid its violent crackdown on peaceful protests.

“While Iran’s government is cutting off its people’s access to the global internet, the United States is taking action to support the free flow of information and access to fact-based information to the Iranian people,” the Treasury said in a press release.

The Iran government on Wednesday cut off global internet access for most of its 80 million citizens, preventing Iranians from sharing footage of the country’s brutal response to peaceful protests sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian woman, in the custody of Iran’s Morality Police. Amini was allegedly detained for violating Iran’s ultraconservative dress code.

The police’s violent clashes with protesters continued Friday, with State TV suggesting on Thursday that the death toll from the unrest could be as high as 26 people.

The Treasury Department said Friday it was issuing Iran General License D-2 — an updated license that will expand internet services to people in Iran “by bringing U.S. sanctions guidance in line with the changes in modern technology since its initial issuance.”

The new guidance will offer more options of secure internet platforms and services. The new license addresses a range of internet freedom issues, such as adding covered categories of software and services including social media platforms and video conferencing, as well as providing additional authorization for communication tools “to assist ordinary Iranians in resisting repressive internet censorship.”

“With these changes, we are helping the Iranian people be better equipped to counter the government's efforts to surveil and censor them,” Treasury Deputy Secretary Wally Adeyemo said in the press release.

A senior Treasury official said on a call with reporters on Friday that the department will endeavor in the coming weeks to issue additional guidance to help businesses and NGOs take advantage of the new authorizations under the updated license.

“The U.S. government will continue to identify those opportunities to support the Iranian people’s right and ability to communicate freely and without fear of government reprisal,” the Treasury official said.

A senior State Department official on the call clarified that while the action is meant to support the free flow of information to the Iranian people, it does not erase the tools Iran’s government has to hinder its people’s ability to communicate with the outside world. But the official said the updated license will make it “much easier” for the Iranian people to confront the government’s repressive communications tools.

“This general license does not remove every tool of communications repression that the government of Iran has to direct at its own people,” the State Department official said. “It will over time give the Iranian people more tools to address those efforts from the Iranian government.”