US sanctions Iranian firm over internet censorship

US sanctions Iranian firm over internet censorship

WASHINGTON — The US Treasury Department announced new sanctions Friday targeting an Iranian company accused of supporting internet censorship. 

The designations are the latest US effort to help counter the government’s suppression of dissent after protests erupted in September over the death in morality police custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini. 

The Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) said Iran-based technology company Arvan Cloud has close relationships with Iran’s intelligence services and its executives have ties to senior Iranian officials. 

Arvan Cloud also functions as a “key partner” of Iran’s Information and Communications Technology Ministry in the ministry’s development of a countrywide intranet that is being used to disconnect the Iranian people from the internet, the OFAC said.

Arvan Cloud’s co-founders, Pouya Pirhosseinloo and Farhad Fatemi, and an affiliated company based in the Emirati city of Dubai were also blacklisted. 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken described the sanctions as “just one component in our multi-pronged strategy to support and preserve the free flow of information to the Iranian people.”

“The United States will continue to support the development and operation of anti-censorship tools that millions of people around the world, including in Iran, use to stay connected online despite authoritarian efforts to disrupt their access to the global internet,” Blinken said in a statement.  

In September, the Treasury Department issued a license authorizing American firms to provide additional internet services in Iran without risking sanctions in a move aimed at countering government censorship of the protests. 

The new sanctions come a day after the Biden administration announced it was designating an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps official and others it said were linked to foiled assassination plots against former national security adviser John Bolton as well as other former US officials, journalists and exiled Iranian dissidents. 

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