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Since 2009, Google has been blocked from providing software downloads to Iran. However, Google announced on its blog that some of the US government’s export controls and sanctions programs that prohibited software downloads to Iran have been lifted.
The search giant has made mapping, photo-sharing, and Web browsing software available for the first time to people in Iran. “For the first time, we are making Google Earth, Picasa and Chrome available for download in Iran,” Google export compliance programs manager Neil Martin said in a blog post.
But restrictions on access to government computers remains, due to the fact that the Iranian government “infiltrated networks, posing as activists and using false identities to round up dissidents,” in 2009.
Martin recounted how Iranian officials deported foreign journalists, disrupted mobile phone connections, and shut down media outlets to suppress protests of the controversial presidential election results in June of 2009.
“In spite of this, the sharing of information using the internet prevailed,” Martin said.
“YouTube and Twitter were cited by journalists, activists and bloggers as the best source for firsthand accounts and on-the-scene footage of the protests and violence across the country.”
US sanctions at that time barred allowing downloads in Iran of software that protestors might have been able to use to their advantage, he noted.
“Our products are specifically designed to help people create, communicate, share opinions and find information,” Martin said.
“And we believe that more available products means more choice, more freedom, and ultimately more power for individuals in Iran and across the globe.”
Iranian demonstrators protesting the results of presidential elections used Twitter extensively, both to organize marches and to release information about their movement.
“We’re committed to full compliance with U.S. export controls and sanctions programs and, as a condition of our export licenses from the Treasury Department, we will continue to block IP addresses associated with the Iranian government,” Martin writes.
The use of web technology amid the Iran protests was closely watched in Washington, where a State Department official asked Twitter to postpone a planned maintenance shutdown by a day to allow Iranians to speak out and organize.
Their use of the microblogging site led some to dub the pro-democracy action against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a “Twitter revolution” and made the Iranian election one of the top “trends” on the site that year.