U.S. expands sanctions exceptions to help provide internet to Iranians

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NEW YORK (Reuters) woman in custody.

The finance ministry said in a statement it was trying to ramp up support for internet freedom in Iran by updating the license after the government blocked access to the internet for most of its citizens on Wednesday.

“As courageous Iranians take to the streets to protest the death of Mahsa Amini, the United States is doubling down on its support for the free flow of information to the Iranian people,” Deputy Finance Minister Wally Adeyemo said.

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“With these changes, we are helping the Iranian people be better equipped to counter government efforts to monitor and censor them.”

Adeyemo added that Washington will continue to issue guidance in the coming weeks.

Public outrage in Iran over the death of Mahsa Amini last week did not abate after days of protests in Tehran and other cities, with protesters setting fire to police stations and vehicles on Thursday and reports of attacks by security forces.

Amini, a Kurdish woman, was arrested by Tehran’s vice squad for wearing “inappropriate clothing” and fell into a coma while in detention. Authorities said they were investigating the cause of death.

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Internet surveillance group Netblocks said on Thursday that a new disruption to the mobile internet has been registered in Iran, where access to social media and some content is severely restricted. NetBlocks on Monday reported an “almost total” internet disruption in the capital of the Kurdish region, tying it to the protests.

Washington has long provided some internet-related exemptions from its sanctions on Iran, but Friday’s update to the general license seeks to modernize them, the Treasury Department said.

It includes social media platforms and video conferencing in its covered categories of software and services, and grants additional licenses for services that support communication tools to help ordinary Iranians “resist oppressive internet censorship and surveillance tools deployed by the Iranian regime “.

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The license also continues to authorize antivirus, anti-malware and anti-tracking software, the Treasury Department said, and removes a previous requirement that communications be “personal” to make it easier for businesses to comply.

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Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis, editing by William Maclean

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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