| 2 December 2022, Friday |

Musk says he will activate Starlink amid Iran protests

Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX, announced on Friday that he would start using the firm’s Starlink satellite internet service in response to tweets from Antony Blinken, the secretary of state of the United States, stating that the country had taken steps “to advance internet freedom and the free flow of information” to Iranians.

In the midst of protests across Iran following the murder of a 22-year-old woman in jail, the U.S. Treasury Department on Friday published recommendations increasing internet services available to Iranians despite U.S. sanctions on the country.

A Treasury official briefing reporters said: “Our understanding of Starlink is that what they provide would be commercial grade, and it would be hardware that’s not covered in the general license; so that would be something they would need to write into Treasury for.”

A U.S. State Department spokesperson later said of Friday’s updated license that it was self-executing and that “anyone who meets the criteria outlined 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 clearance to operate in Iran.

Iranians have been protesting over the death of Mahsa Amini last week while in police custody after being arrested by the morality police for wearing “unsuitable attire”.

Musk said on Monday that the company wanted to provide Starlink satellite broadband service – already provided to Ukraine for its fight against Russia’s invasion – to Iranians, and would ask for a sanctions exception.

The U.S. State Department spokesperson added that if SpaceX were to determine that some activity aimed at Iranians requires a specific license, “OFAC would welcome it and prioritize it”.

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

  • Reuters