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NIAC welcomes Congressional initiative to correct flawed Internet regulations

Contact: Phil Elwood

For Immediate Release

Washington, DC – The National Iranian American Council welcomes today’s introduction of H.R.4301, the Iranian Digital Empowerment Act (IDEA) in the House of Representatives, and applauds the bill’s sponsors Representatives Representatives Jim Moran (D-VA), Bill Delahunt (D-MA), and Bob Inglis (R-SC).
NIAC President Trita Parsi welcomed the new proposal, calling it a “long overdue correction of one of the most glaringly self-defeating aspects” of US sanctions on Iran.  Due to ambiguities in current US sanctions law, companies and private citizens in the US are barred from sending software to the people of Iran, including important communication and anti-censorship tools that ensure the free flow of information.  The Iranian Digital Empowerment Act clarifies that US sanctions do not apply to software that enables the people of Iran to circumvent government monitors and censors as well as communications software and services.
(Click here for NIAC’s one page fact-sheet on IDEA)
“Sanctions alone are not going to alter the Iranian government’s behavior,” Parsi said, “but the last thing US laws should do is hinder the Iranian people’s ability to access information and communication tools online.” Recently, Microsoft and Google suspended certain instant messaging services in Iran, citing their obligations under US sanctions.  Facebook also considered cutting its service to Iran prior to the election, though ultimately decided against such a move, which would have deprived the Iranian people of a critical outlet for communicating post-election events to the outside world.  Still, current regulations are ambiguous about the legality of offering online services to Iran.
Representative Moran emphasized the importance of this legislation following its introduction: “Given the tectonic shifts in Iranian society following the fraudulent national election and emboldened democracy movement that rose from it, we need to move fast to make these sanctions smarter and more relevant to current technology,” he said.  “IDEA taks a smart approach to our existing sanctions policy by ensuring that Iranian fighting for change are strengthened–those at the front lines of the pro-democracy movement–and not the oppressive regime.”

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