Elon Musk announced via Twitter on Friday he was activating his Starlink internet service Iran, where protests have been escalating since the death last week of a 22-year-old woman who had been arrested by morality police for “unsuitable attire.”
The billionaire entrepreneur and SpaceX CEO was responding to announcements by top officials that the U.S. would help block Iranian efforts to censor the protesters. Tehran had cut off internet access for most citizens Wednesday in response to the demonstrations.
“As courageous Iranians take to the streets to protest the death of Mahsa Amini, the United States is redoubling its support for the free flow of information to the Iranian people,” Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said, according to Reuters.
The Treasury Department issued guidance Friday to expand the internet services available to Iranians despite U.S. sanctions on the country.
Musk’s move came after a tweet from Secretary of State Antony Blinken which said that the United States had taken steps “to advance internet freedom and the free flow of information” to the Iranian people.
Blinken was referencing the guidance from the Treasury Department issued earlier in the day.
With a flourish and brevity that is typical for his tweets, Musk replied simply: “Activating Starlink …”
Activating Starlink …
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 23, 2022
On Monday, Musk had said that SpaceX would ask for an exemption from sanctions against Iran to deploy Starlink there.
Musk had taken similar action for Ukraine when Russian military forces attempted to shut down telecommunications early in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.
The responsiveness of Starlink to Russian jamming efforts to prevent Ukrainians from communicating with the outside world in April drew praise from the Pentagon. Dave Tremper, director of electronic warfare in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, noted at the time that the company’s responsiveness was something the Pentagon could only envy, according to Business Insider.
Tremper told reporters that just one day after Russian forces began jamming Starlink in Ukraine, “Starlink had slung a line of code and fixed it.” The attack simply “was not effective anymore,” he added.
“From an [electronic warfare] technologist perspective, that is fantastic,” Tremper said. “That paradigm and how they did that is kind of eye-watering to me.”
Musk got involved in the Iranian effort when a fellow Twitter user reached out to him Monday.
The request came from Die Welt-Persian journalist Erfan Kasraie, who asked, “I’m sure you won’t answer it Mr Musk, but is it technically possible to provide Starlink to Iranian people? It could be a game changer for the future.”
Musk replied, “Starlink will ask for an exemption to Iranian sanctions in this regard”
Starlink will ask for an exemption to Iranian sanctions in this regard
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 19, 2022
By Friday, the deed was done.
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