U.S. Lifts Restrictions on Communications Technology to Iran

May 31, 2013, Washington, D.C. – The White House announced Thursday that it was lifting restrictions on the export of communication devices to Iran, although the restrictions will continue to apply to the Iranian government and those on a list of “specially designated nationals.” The change represents an attempt to increase free expression among the Iranian people, particularly through text messaging, mobile videos, and social media, in order to counter what the U.S. considers the Iranian government’s attempt to “silence its people.”  At the same time, the State Department designated additional individuals and organizations for contributing to serious human rights abuses within Iran. 

Under the new regulations, the Treasury Department is issuing a “general license” that permits the export of mobile phones, satellite phones and broadband hardware, network interface cards, modems, WiFi access points, routers, virtual private networks, laptop computers, tablets, online store applications, disk drives, data storage devices, anti-virus and anti-tracking software, anti-censorship tools, and fee-based personal communications tools including text, video, voice, video chat, and voice-over-IP telephony.  The Apple iPhone can be legally exported to Iran for the first time. 

In explaining the rationale for the new policy, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki stated: “As the Iranian government attempts to silence its people by cutting off their communication with each other and the rest of the world, the United States will continue to take action to help the Iranian people exercise their universal human rights, including the right to freedom of expression. The people of Iran should be able to communicate and access information without being subject to reprisals by their government.”

Click here to read the new general license.

Click here to read an analysis of the new policy.

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