Image: Lara Jameson via Pexels

US Treasury sanctions Iranian cloud provider ‘facilitating’ Tehran censorship

The U.S. government issued sanctions on Friday against an Iranian cloud technology provider accused of “facilitating” Tehran’s internet censorship, as well as an affiliated company and two employees.

The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned ArvanCloud, which it called “a key partner” in the Iranian regime’s effort to set up the National Information Network, a parallel intranet within the country that allows the government to more easily control access to online information.

The sanctions come on the heels of nationwide protests at the end of last year and into the spring of 2023 against the death of Mahsa Amini in the custody of the so-called morality police. In response to the protests that followed, Iran restricted access to the internet and especially to social media.

“Arvan Cloud has a close relationship with Iran’s intelligence services, including the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS), and Arvan Cloud executives have extensive ties to senior Iranian government officials,” a statement from OFAC said.

“The Iranian government has regularly used Internet restrictions and the throttling of Internet speeds to suppress dissent, surveil and punish Iranians for exercising their freedom of expression and assembly both online and offline, and limit the dissemination to the international community of credible information about egregious human rights violations.”

The action also targets the company’s co-founders, Farhad Fatemi and Pouya Pirhosseinloo, as well as an affiliated Dubai-based company, Arvancloud Global Technologies LLC.

The European Union imposed sanctions on ArvanCloud last November, writing that the company is “a major partner in the project of the Iranian government, in general, and the Iranian Minister of Information and Communications Technology, in particular, to set up a separate, Iranian version of the internet.”

“Such a national intranet with connecting points to the global internet will help to control the flow of information between the Iranian intranet and the global internet.”

The company denied the allegations in a statement online, saying it would continue to grow as an international cloud technology provider.

“These false accusations are repeated through social media and news outlets without solid evidence in a way that have become the basis for this unjust sanction. It is disappointing how European Union has been affected by and followed these one-sided and unsubstantial allegations.”

Under the OFAC sanctions, all property and interests in property in the U.S. will be blocked, and business dealings with the companies and individuals are prohibited. The decision does allow for existing agreements with ArvanCloud to “wind down” by July 6.

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James Reddick

James Reddick

has worked as a journalist around the world, including in Lebanon and in Cambodia, where he was Deputy Managing Editor of The Phnom Penh Post. He is also a radio and podcast producer for outlets like Snap Judgment.