Washington, DC – Beginning late last week, Yahoo made good on its May promise to reinstate the ability for Iranians to create email accounts.
Yahoo is the top email provider for Iranians; however, a policy change in late 2013 that required users to provide a phone number for new accounts barred numbers from countries that were sanctioned by the United States. As a result, Iranian users were unable to create new emails through Yahoo.
Iranian Americans and human rights and technology organizations joined forces in petitioning for the reversal of Yahoo’s new policy. NIAC and Berim organized grassroots petition campaigns to call on Yahoo to stop blocking Iranians. Additionally, NIAC teamed up with groups including Berim, Access, United 4 Iran, International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, ASL19, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Human Rights Watch, New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute and the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans, to send a letter to Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Mayer to reverse the policy and allow email access to Iranians.
In May, Yahoo pledged to resolve the issue by September in order to once again enable Iranians to create email accounts.
This limitation on communication services by Yahoo was not the first time that sanctions had prevented American tech companies from offering their services to Iranians. But beginning in 2009, a series of actions taken by the Obama Administration have exempted many communications technologies from sanctions. Many companies like Google, Apple, Microsoft, and GoDaddy had previously blocked access to Iranians but, over time, and with encouragement from civil society groups, have begun lifting those restrictions.
Yahoo’s policy reversal is a welcome response to the public outcry and collaboration amongst different people and groups. Movements like this have been part of a longstanding effort by NIAC and others to lift sanctions on communications technology for Iranians. NIAC has actively worked with the Obama administration and Congress in lifting communications sanctions, supporting all actions made to stop the over-enforcement of sanctions and easing obstacles in personal communication for Iranians.
NIAC applauds Yahoo’s move, as well as all the organizations involved in this campaign, and looks forward to continuing these efforts.