Musk says activation of Starlink, in response to Blinken on internet freedom in Iran

The Starlink logo is seen on a smartphone in front of the Ukrainian flag shown in this illustration taken February 27, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

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Sept 23 (Reuters) – SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said on Friday he would activate his firm’s satellite internet service, Starlink, in response to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s tweet that the US was taking action “to promote internet freedom and free flow. of information” to Iranians.

The US Treasury Department on Friday issued guidance expanding internet services available to Iranians despite US sanctions against the country, amid protests around Iran following the death of a 22-year-old woman in custody.

An official Treasury briefing reporter said: “Our understanding of Starlink is that what they are providing will be commercial grade and it will be hardware not covered by the general licence; so that would be something they would have to write to the Treasury for.”

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A US State Department spokesperson later said of Friday’s updated license that it was self-executing and that “anyone who meets the criteria outlined in this general license may continue their activities without requesting additional permits.”

Musk could not be reached for comment or clarification regarding Starlink’s permission to operate in Iran.

Iranians have protested the death of Mahsa Amini last week while in police custody after being arrested by morality police for wearing “inappropriate attire”.

Musk said on Monday that the company wanted to offer Starlink satellite broadband service – already provided to Ukraine to fight Russia’s invasion – to Iranians, and would ask for exemptions from sanctions.

The US State Department spokesman added that if SpaceX were to determine that any activity targeting Iranians required a specific license, “OFAC would welcome that and prioritize it”.

“Similarly, if SpaceX determines that the activity is already authorized and has some questions, OFAC also welcomes that engagement,” the State Department spokesperson said.

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Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis and Akash Sriram in Bengaluru; additional reporting by Kanishka Singh; Editing by Shailesh Kuber and Sandra Maler

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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