Two North Jersey legislators are leading a bipartisan call for Big Tech to provide help to the people of Iran.
Sen. Bob Menendez and Rep. Tom Malinowski were joined by Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-NY) and Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) in the leading the call, which followed the issuance of a general license (GLD-2i) from the Department of Treasury that would allow U.S. companies to provide communications services to Iranians in the midst of regime oppression.
“The Biden Administration has opened a door for tech companies like Apple, Google, and Facebook to help Iranians who are risking their lives for freedom,” said Malinowski. “Now they need to walk through it.”
New Jersey Democrats Reps. Albio Sires and Andy Kim were additional signatories to the message, and were also joined by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), and Reps. Maria Elvira Salazar (R-FL), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Katie Porter (D-CA), Ted Lieu (D-CA), Jim McGovern (D-MA), and Young Kim (R-CA).
“The Iranian regime has responded to crowds of brave women and men all over the country chanting against the systemic misogyny and repression as all fearful authoritarian governments do— with censorship, and with brutal violence,” Menendez said.
The push to help the dissidents comes as an Iranian court on Nov. 14 has issued the first death sentence linked to recent protests, convicting the unnamed person of “enmity against God” and “spreading corruption on Earth.”
Protest in the Middle East country has been ongoing in Iran since September in the greatest demonstration of anti-regime protests in recent years. The rise was started due to outrage over the death of Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian woman who had been detained by the morality police for allegedly not wearing her hijab properly.
Since then, Iranian authorities have unleashed a brutal crackdown on protesters, having charged at least 1,000 people in Tehran province for their alleged involvement. The crackdown has included non-state media, the internet, and protest movements in Iran being suppressed by the government.
Expediting Specific Technologies
“The regime’s ongoing internet and communication services blackouts are hurting, but not stopping the people Iran. These tactics prevent them from fully opening the eyes of world to the repression and injustice they live with each and every day,” stated Menendez.
In a letter to Silicon Valley CEOs, the signatories argued Iranians would see the most use from cloud and hosting services, with a specific focus on safe data storage and the creation of virtual private networks; additionally, messaging platforms and secured communications platforms were thought to be of great value.
The letter noted developer and analytics tools could be used to create and harden existing secure communications and VPNS to circumvent filters applied by the government. Analytics software would also improve Iran-based analytic services.
Help from Silicon Valley
“Your tools and services may be vital in their efforts to pursue these aspirations, and the United States should continue to make every effort to assist them,” read the end of the letter.
They also noted access to app stores would provide an alternative to Iranian-backed networks, which were at risk of being surveilled by government sources.
“Silicon Valley can make a real difference by helping provide the people of Iran with means to circumvent regime-controlled communications, and legally offer the kinds of technology now allowed under new general licensing policies issued by the Treasury Department,” concluded Menendez.