March 1, 2024

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Musk says he will activate Starlink amid Iran protests

Musk says he will activate Starlink amid Iran protests

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

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(Reuters) – SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said Friday he will activate the company’s satellite internet service, Starlink, in response to U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken’s tweet that the United States has taken measures to “promote internet freedom and the free flow of information” for Iranians.

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

Treasury reporters briefly said, “Our understanding of Starlink is that what they’re offering will be commercial grade, and the hardware will be not covered by the General License; so that’s going to be something they need to write about at the Treasury.”

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A US State Department spokesperson later said of the updated license Friday that it was self-enforcing and that “anyone who meets the criteria described in this general license can proceed with their activities without requesting additional permissions.”

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

Iranians protested the death of Mahsa Amini last week while in police custody after the morality police arrested her for wearing “inappropriate clothes”.

Musk said Monday that the company wants to offer Starlink satellite broadband service — which has already been provided to Ukraine in its war against Russia’s invasion — to the Iranians, and will ask for an exemption from the sanctions.

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The State Department spokesperson added that if SpaceX determines that certain activities targeting Iranians require specific licensing, “OFAC will welcome and prioritize them.”

“By the same token, if SpaceX determines that its activity is indeed authorized and has any questions, OFAC also welcomes such participation,” a State Department spokesperson said.

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Additional reporting by Daphne Psalidakis and Akash Sriram in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Kanishka Singh; Editing by Shalish Cooper and Sandra Mahler

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.