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Envoy for Iran says US working to help Iranians bypass internet shutdown

U.S. Special Representative for Iran and Senior Policy Advisor to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Brian Hook speaks at the announcement of the creation of the Iran Action Group in the Press Briefing Room, at the Department of State, August 16, 2018. (U.S. State Department/Flickr)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Brian Hook, Washington’s special envoy for Iran, says the United States is working to help Iranians bypass a near-total Internet shutdown imposed by the clerical establishment amid violent protests over a sharp hike in gasoline prices.

Speaking to RFE/RL on November 18, Hook said the United States was trying to put in place “workarounds” to help Iranians access the global Internet.

NetBlocks, which monitors worldwide Internet access, said connectivity in Iran had fallen to just 5 percent of ordinary levels in recent days.

“We think that’s going to help some people connect to the Internet so that they can continue getting out their videos [of the protests],” Hook said.

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He added that the United States had taken “a number of steps” in the past 18 months to help Iranians bypass Internet censorship.

“We have been able to get into the hands of the Iranian people circumvention tools that allow them to communicate with each other when the regime tries to censor them,” he said.

Hook accused the Iranian leaders of “hypocrisy” for using social media while depriving millions of Iranians from access to the Internet.

“The supreme leader, the president, and the foreign minister continue to use social media and they use the Internet to get out their message, but they don’t let the Iranian people get out the truth,” Hook said.

The White House on November 17 condemned “the lethal force and severe communications restrictions used against demonstrators” and said it supported “the Iranian people in their peaceful protests.”