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US allows tech companies to boost internet access in IranATN News

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Washington: The Treasury Department said Friday it will allow U.S. tech companies to expand their business in Iran, one of the world’s most permissive countries, to increase internet access for Iranians.

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

Charity police stopped Amini last week after she allegedly did not properly cover her hair with the Islamic hijab, which is mandatory for Iranian women. Amini collapsed at 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. U.S. sanctions were imposed Thursday on the moral police and heads of law enforcement agencies.

The updated general license, released Friday, authorizes technology companies to offer social media and collaboration platforms, video conferencing and cloud-based services, the Treasury Department said. The updated license also removes the requirement that communications be private, which Treasury said imposes a requirement on companies to verify the purpose of communications.

As courageous Iranians took to the streets to protest Mahza Amini’s death, the United States is doubling down on support for the free exchange of information for the Iranian people, Deputy Treasury Secretary Wali Adeyemo said in a statement.

With these changes, we are helping Iranians to counter the government’s efforts to monitor and censor them.

In 2014, the Treasury Department’s Sanctions Division granted Iran a license to export software and services that would allow the free exchange of information over the Internet with the goal of promoting the free flow of information to Iranian citizens.

Despite the payment, companies are reluctant to do business in Iran, fearing violations of existing sanctions and other laws that impose penalties.

On Monday, Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted that his satellite internet company Starlink was seeking permission to operate in Iran. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control would have to decide on Starling’s next steps.

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