The Unites States Treasury Department announced sanctions today against more than 60 human rights abusers, while at the same time trying to help give everyday Iranians better access to digital media.
The U.S. has supported attempts to boost democratic movements and stepped up efforts to stop regimes such as those in Iran and Syria from blocking social media through what Obama has called the “malign use of technology.”
In November, the administration imposed sanctions on Iranian officials — including the nation’s communications minister — and government agencies for blocking Internet access, mobile-phone lines and satellite-television channels to stifle free speech.
The Treasury named today additional individuals and entities who are “contributing to serious human rights abuses committed by the Iranian regime, including through the use of communications technology to silence and intimidate the Iranian people.” The State Department issued visa restrictions on about 60 Iranian officials linked to human rights abuses.
Those designated include the Committee to Determine Instances of Criminal Content, the government entity charged with filtering the flow of information to the Iranian people, as well as Asghar Mir-Hejazi, the deputy chief of staff to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who “has used his influence behind the scenes to empower elements from Iran’s intelligence services in carrying out violent crackdowns against the Iranian people.”
Many of the biggest tech companies have already expanded on the technology that they provide Iranian citizens.
The administration previously eased some restrictions on mass-market software needed for Internet communications after noting that the sanctions were having an “unintended chilling effect” on the ability of companies such as Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) and Google Inc. (GOOG), based in Mountain View, California, to continue providing essential communications tools to ordinary Iranians.