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It’s time for companies to act: US eases sanctions on export of tech to Iran

1:28pm | 31 May 2013 | by Jochai Ben-Avie, English

Yesterday the US government announced a new round of sanctions relief for Iranian citizens, providing users with easier access to the internet and a wide range of personal communications technologies. With the road to export without the need for specific licenses explicitly cleared, now is the time for these companies to make their products and services available to Iranian users.

Until now, US regulations prohibited the export by US persons of laptops, cell phones, and modems to Iran. In addition, they prevented access to anti-virus software, online app stores, some proxy tools, and any fee-based services used for personal communications, including web hosting, virtual private networks (VPNs), and other critical tools for the exercise of human rights online.

While some Iranians have accessed these tools in the past, they often did so in violation of US sanctions or via bypassing the checks imposed by private companies. With this new license, Iranian users already suffering under censorship imposed by their own government will no longer have to overcome a second set of governmental restrictions.

This general license is especially timely, as the Iranian regime has begun imposing increasingly restrictive internet policies in advance of the presidential elections scheduled for the 14th of June. It will be the country’s first presidential election since the highly contested 2009 election, an event that led to the emergence of the Green Movement--and inspired the founding of Access.

Earlier this year, Access--along with the EFF, NIAC, United4Iran, the Council of the Americas, and other organizations--wrote to Google, Yahoo!, Facebook, Apple, McAfee, Go Daddy, and other tech companies to urge them to more broadly interpret US sanctions policy and to apply for specific licenses where they were required. Yesterday, the US government opened the door for companies to take this step: we urge them to do so.

We applaud the Departments of Treasury and State and all other US government officials involved for taking this crucially needed step toward helping the people of Iran realize their rights. The full text of the general license is available here.

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