US Sanctions Target Iran’s Internet Censorship Amid Protests

By Arshad Mohammed

 – The United States said on Friday it imposed sanctions on Iranian technology company Arvan Cloud, two employees and an affiliated Emirati firm for helping Tehran censor the internet in Iran as part of the government’s attempts to crush domestic protests.

Arvan Cloud has a close relationship with Iran’s intelligence services and its executives have ties to senior Iranian government officials, the U.S. Treasury Department said in a statement.

“The … government has regularly used Internet restrictions and the throttling of Internet speeds to suppress dissent, surveil and punish Iranians for exercising their freedom of expression and assembly both online and offline,” it said.

The September death of Kurdish-Iranian woman Mahsa Amini in morality police custody after she was accused of violating Iran’s strict dress code unleashed mass protests for months, posing one of the boldest challenges to Iran’s clerical leaders in decades.

Arvan Cloud played a major role in Iran’s development of the “NIN infrastructure,” a censored version of the internet controlled by the government, and has explicitly agreed to provide interception for the government, the Treasury said.

This allows the Iranian authorities to control and censor incoming and outgoing traffic and to monitor data, it added.

“The United States is committed to holding accountable those who seek to undermine freedom of expression and suppress dissent,” Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson said in the statement.

Arvan Cloud co-founders Pouya Pirhosseinloo and Farhad Fatemi, were sanctions targets, the Treasury said. The sanctions also targeted ArvanCloud Global Technologies LLC, an affiliate based in the United Arab Emirates, it said.

As a result of the sanctions, all property of the people and companies subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked. In addition, carrying out some transactions with them can lead to “secondary sanctions” under which the United States can penalize non-U.S. individuals and entities.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu and Arshad Mohammed; editing by Grant McCool)

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