Now Companies Must Make Tech Products Available and U.S. Government Must Encourage Them
September 26, 2022—Today, the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA) and the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) welcomed an announcement by the U.S. Department of Treasury of the issuance of Iran General License (GL) D-2, which updates and expands existing exemptions under U.S. sanctions to increase support for Internet freedom in Iran. The new license follows years of advocacy by both organizations.
“We welcome with open arms the announcement of General License D-2 by the U.S. Department of Treasury. This new license is an invaluable step in supporting civil society in Iran and ensuring that the Iranian people have access to critical telecommunications tools,” said Leila Austin, Executive Director of PAAIA.
“These tech products help the people of Iran, who are out on the streets right now risking their lives to protest the Islamic Republic’s violent repression, to share with the world the atrocities being committed by the state against them—information that the Iranian authorities are trying to hide,” said Hadi Ghaemi, CHRI Executive Director.
The previous (GL) D-1 license was hobbled by its lack of clarity and, as it was issued in 2014, was badly outdated. Its exclusion of cloud and hosting infrastructure was especially harmful to civil society in Iran, which faces repressive state censorship and covert surveillance of the internet, because many censorship circumvention and anti-surveillance tools are now delivered via cloud services.
Last year PAAIA and CHRI spearheaded a bipartisan congressional letter that urged the Biden administration to support the free flow of information and internet freedom for civil society in Iran by updating General License D-1. The letter and subsequent bipartisan legislation was well received by the administration in making the necessary changes a higher priority.
U.S. companies must move forward with sales to Iran
It is now the turn of U.S. technology companies, such as Google, Apple, Amazon, and Digital Ocean to provide their tools and services to Iranians and thus truly support internet freedom. In the past, companies refused to make available even products that were clearly legal under D1; it is imperative that they now commit themselves to making available tools and services that are legal and critically needed by Iranian civil society in order to safely access and share information online.
The U.S. Government Still Has a Critical Role to Play
For its part, the U.S. government must now persuade companies to make available these goods and services to Iranians. In addition, when companies wish to pursue additional licensing for technology-related sales beyond D2, Treasury should prioritize these applications so that they move as quickly as possible. The U.S. should also lead the international community in addressing the continued shutdown of the internet by the Iranian government to suppress news of mass protests, the latest following the death in state custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini.