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April 2, 2021

Obstacles to Access: A Conversation on Tech Freedom and Iran

On March 26th, NIAC hosted an important discussion on internet freedom and the right of all Iranians to have access to the web, access to information and digital security. Along with special remarks from Representative Ro Khanna and NIAC President Jama Abdi , the panelists included Mahsa Alimardani of ARTICLE19, Peter Micek of Access Now, Mike Linksvayer from GitHub, and Amir Rashidi from the Miaan Group. Moderated by NIAC Communications Director Mana Mostatabi, the discussion offered a range of views from policymakers, Internet freedom advocates, and tech industry leaders.

Internet freedom in Iran has long been a double edged sword. As Amir Rashidi aptly put it: “Using the internet in Iran today is a fight between two sides [the Iranian government and US sanctions], with everyday Iranians caught in between.” Thus, Iranians suffer from their own government’s crackdowns on free expression and access to information (like shutting down internet access during protests), while facing another layer of restrictions imposed by tech companies afraid of violating U.S. sanctions. Sanctions and over-compliance of these sanctions have only created more obstacles to free and accessible internet access.

With the Iranian presidential elections in June and ongoing political obstacles between the U.S. and Iran, it is crucial to remember the ordinary Iranians who bear the brunt of these issues. The need to address this is now, as Mahsa Alimardani makes clear: “Needing to adjust your technologies from the margins is important.”

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