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U.S. License Lets Group Send Anti-Censorship Software to Iran

April 14th, 2010 by Sheri


April 14 (Bloomberg) — The U.S. government approved the export to Iran of software designed to help citizens avoid government censorship of their Internet use, according to the program’s developer, the Censorship Research Center.

The “Haystack” software lets Internet users hide their identities and use Web sites — such as Google Inc.’s YouTube, Facebook Inc., and Twitter Inc. — that are blocked by the government, the San Francisco-based non-profit group said in a statement on its Web site.

“We hope to keep the Internet open,” the center’s executive director, Austin Heap, said in a telephone interview. “We can start very seriously to support the people within Iran, and those who keep the dialogue going — the bloggers, the citizen journalists.”

The group applied for a license because the U.S. prohibits most exports to Iran unless they are approved by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.

The center developed the software in response to a crackdown on Internet use by the Iranian government after last year’s disputed presidential election, Heap said.

Heap said the license was issued March 19. That day, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in an interview with Bloomberg Television that the U.S. had approved an application that would boost Internet access for Iranians, without identifying the entity that sought the license.

The program lets people in Iran use the Internet “as if there were no Iranian government filters,” Heap said.

Anti-Censorship Education

The center was co-founded by Heap in 2009 to provide anti- censorship education, outreach, and technologies, according to its Web site.

After the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in June 2009 balloting, the Iranian opposition used the Internet to organize demonstrations and spread its message.

Police have told opposition activists that their e-mails and mobile-phone text messages are monitored. Iran is among a number of countries identified as “enemies of the Internet 2010,” a list drawn up by Reporters Without Borders.

Almost 32 percent of Iranians have access to the Internet, according to a 2008 estimate by the International Telecommunication Union, a United Nations agency in Geneva.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ali Sheikholeslami in London at

Last Updated: April 13, 2010 21:23 EDT

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