Elon Musk gets greenlit to turn on Starlink internet for Iranians – Nexus News
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has been issued the green light by the United States government to turn on the satellite internet service Starlink to support Iranians protesting against the death of a woman in police custody.
Access to social media and some content is tightly prohibited in Iran and significant internet failures were reported across the country on Saturday, with one of the biggest mobile phone operators interrupted, leaving millions of Iranians offline.
The US Treasury Department on Friday issued guidance expanding internet services available to Iranians amid US sanctions on the country.
The decision follows deadly protests around Iran following the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who died after being detained by “morality police” who questioned the way she was wearing her headscarf.
Hundreds of angry demonstrators have been captured with crowds taking to the streets of major cities across Iran for eight straight nights. State television stated that the number of deaths in “recent riots” had increased to 35, up from 17 previously, including at least five security personnel.
A US State Department spokesperson stated that the updated license was self-executing and “anyone who meets the criteria outlined in this general license can proceed with their activities without requesting additional permissions”.
Musk could not be reached for remarks or clarification regarding Starlink’s clearance to operate in Iran.
However, he said on Monday the company wanted to provide the Starlink satellite broadband service – already provided to Ukraine for its fight against Russia’s invasion – to Iranians and would request for a sanctions exception.
Iran has restricted access to social media networks Instagram and WhatsApp amid the protests, according to residents and internet watchdog NetBlocks.
Azadeh Akbari, from the University of Twente, said the digital shutdown in Iran is “a continuation of decades of internet filtering by the Iranian government”.
She gave examples of “keyboard filtering” and the arrest of journalists as a means of breaking down on access.
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Akbari noted that with the shutdown of global cyberspace in Iran it would be increasingly “difficult and dangerous” for members of the public to access safe messenger apps and use methods to get around the blocks.
Speaking from Capetown, South Africa, mobile video journalism publisher Yusuf Omar stated that the Iranian government’s attempts to limit internet access is a form of “government censorship” as well as “self-censorship” of the population.
“People we are getting in touch with stories even if they do have access to the internet for a couple of hours and want to send a video out. They are really afraid,” Omar informed Al Jazeera.
President Ebrahim Raisi disclosed on Saturday that Iran must “deal decisively with those who oppose the country’s security and tranquility”, Iranian state media reported.
Raisi’s comments were made in a condolence telephone call to the family of a security agent stabbed to death last week, reportedly by protesters provoked by the death of Amini.