US lifts web sanctions on Cuba, Iran and Sudan
Daniel Nasaw in Washington
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 9 March 2010 00.47 GMT
The US yesterday said it will allow export of instant messaging, web browsing and other communications technology to Cuba, Iran and Sudan, in an effort to facilitate the flow of information and promote freedom of speech.
The move by the US Treasury department comes after Iranian anti-regime protesters used Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and other sites to great effect in the aftermath of the disputed June elections. In the months since, anti-regime forces have used the technology to organise demonstrations, spread news and communicate with the outside world, including western journalists largely barred from covering the protest movement.
"The issuance of these general licenses will make it easier for individuals in Iran, Sudan and Cuba to use the internet to communicate with each other, and with the outside world," deputy Treasury secretary Neal Wolin said. "[Yesterday's] actions will enable Iranian, Sudanese and Cuban citizens to exercise their most basic rights. As recent events in Iran have shown, personal internet-based communications like email, instant messaging and social networking are powerful tools. This software will foster and support the free flow of information - a basic human right -for all Iranians."
Most US trade with Iran and Cuba is barred under US sanctions. Congress is considering banning government contracts with foreign companies that sell technology which the Iranian regime can use to suppress or monitor citizens' internet use, after it was revealed Nokia, the Finnish mobile phone company, and Siemens, the Germany technology giant, had sold such technology to Tehran in 2008.