Musk says enable Starlink, responding to Blinken on internet freedom in Iran


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SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said on Friday he would activate the company’s satellite internet service, Starlink, in response to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s tweet that the United States has taken action ” to advance internet freedom and the free flow of information” to Iranians.

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

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An official Treasury reporter said: “Our understanding of Starlink is that what they provide would be commercial grade, and that would be material that is not covered by the General License; so that would be something they would need to write to the treasury for.

A US State Department spokesperson later said of Friday’s updated license that it is self-executing and that “anyone who meets the criteria set forth in this general license may continue their activities without ask for additional permissions”.

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

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

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Musk said on Monday that the company wanted to provide Starlink satellite broadband service – already provided to Ukraine for its fight against the Russian invasion – to Iranians, and would seek an exception to the sanctions.

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

“Similarly, if SpaceX determines that its activity is already authorized and has questions, OFAC also welcomes that engagement,” the State Department spokesperson said. (Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis and Akash Sriram in Bangalore; additional reporting by Kanishka Singh; Editing by Shailesh Kuber and Sandra Maler)

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