UANI launched its "Tech & Telecom Campaign" to highlight the practices of international firms that provide the Iranian regime with sensitive technology and telecommunications equipment that are used to restrict and monitor internet and cell phone services, as well as facilitate the broadcast and dissemination of regime-sponsored propaganda. The regime uses this technology to facilitate its suppression of the citizens of Iran.
This technology and specialized telecommunications equipment is a critical tool used by the Iranian regime to control its population and maintain its iron grip on power. Although such technology and equipment can have legitimate and legal purposes, the Iranian regime routinely misuses such technology for nefarious ends. This has led to the imprisonment, torture, and even death of Iranian citizens and dissidents. Firms that provide such goods and services to Iran must, therefore, be held accountable and end their business in Iran.
Firms that provide this technology and telecommunications equipment are also liable to be penalized under U.S. sanctions law. Section 106 of the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions Accountability and Divestment Act of 2010 (CISADA) specifically calls on the U.S. to ban "procurement of goods or services with a person that exports sensitive technology to Iran." CISADA defines sensitive technology as "hardware, software, telecommunications equipment, or any other technology" that is used to "(A) to restrict the free flow of unbiased information in Iran; or (B) to disrupt, monitor, or otherwise restrict speech of the people of Iran."
The Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012 (ITRA) expanded the scope of CISADA by adding provisions that impose sanctions on a person that "transfers, or facilitates the transfer of, goods or technologies" "likely to be used by the Government of Iran or any of its agencies or instrumentalities… to commit serious human rights abuses against the people of Iran." This also covers any person that "provides services (including services relating to hardware, software, and specialized information, and professional consulting, engineering, and support services) with respect to [these] goods or technologies."
ITRA also states, "It is the sense of Congress... that satellite service providers and other entities that have direct contractual arrangements to provide satellite services to the Government of Iran or entities owned or controlled by that Government should cease providing broadcast services to that Government and those entities unless that Government ceases activities intended to jam or restrict satellite signals." The law requires the president to impose sanctions against persons that "(A) prohibit, limit, or penalize the exercise of freedom of expression or assembly by citizens of Iran; or (B) limit access to print or broadcast media, including the facilitation or support of intentional frequency manipulation by the Government of Iran or an entity owned or controlled by that Government that would jam or restrict an international signal."
Following implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal in January 2016, U.S. and EU sanctions on Iran’s human rights abuses remain in place, including a ban on exports to Iran of equipment likely to be used for internal repression and monitoring telecommunications. Penalties for violating these sanctions include being banned from U.S. government contracts.
Through the Tech & Telecom Campaign, UANI seeks to ensure that these companies either take the responsible action to end their business in Iran or be held accountable under U.S. and EU sanction law.
Launched a campaign calling on South African telecom giant MTN to cease its business in Iran. MTN is a 49% shareholder of MTN Irancell, the second largest mobile phone network operator in Iran. The majority 51% is in turn owned by the Iranian regime, which has exploited the MTN Irancell network and technology to monitor and track the activities and communications of peaceful dissidents in Iran.
Launched a campaign calling on Swedish telecom giant Ericsson to end its Iran business and stop working with human rights abuser MTN Irancell. Ericsson provided a mobile-positioning center to Iran in 2009 that can be used to track cellphone users. Ericsson continues to maintain the center but in October 2010 stated it would no longer pursue new business in Iran due to tightening sanctions. New reports, however, show that Ericsson plans to extend its network in Iran and has pledged to support MTN Irancell until 2021.
Launched a campaign calling on Chinese telecom giant ZTE to cease its business in Iran. As part of a $130.6 million contract signed in December 2010, ZTE sold an advanced surveillance system to the IRGC-owned Telecommunication Company of Iran (TCI) that enables the Iranian regime to monitor the voice, text messaging and internet communications of its citizens. TCI possesses a near monopoly on landline telephone services and internet traffic in the country. Shortly after UANI's campaign, ZTEannounced that it "no longer seeks new customers in Iran and limits business activities with existing customers." UANI continues to call ZTE for its complete exit from Iran.
Launched a campaign calling on Chinese telecom giant Huawei to cease its business in Iran or face U.S. sanctions. Huawei's telecommunications technology has been used by the Iranian regime to conduct surveillance on its citizens, and track down human rights activists and dissidents. Following discussions with UANI, Huawei announced that it would stop seeking new business in Iran and limit existing business. UANI applauded Huawei's decision but continues to call for a full pullout from Iran.
Launched a campaign calling on Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN), a joint venture between Nokiaof Finland and Siemens of Germany, to cease its business in Iran or face U.S. sanctions. In the brutal crackdown that followed Iran’s disputed June 2009 presidential elections, NSN technology was used to suppress protesters by monitoring and blocking communications. Due to widespread public condemnation, NSN stopped work on its "monitoring centers" in Iran but continued to do business in the country. Following Huawei’s decision to pull back, NSN announced it would not take on any new business in Iran and would gradually reduce its existing commitments. UANI applauded NSN’s decision but continues to call for a full NSN and Nokia pullout from Iran.
Orange has had long-standing business ties with Iran. Orange’s subsidiaries have provided services to U.S. and E.U. sanctioned entities, including Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB). Sofrecom S.A., an Orange subsidiary, has also provided technical and management assistance to the Telecommunication Company of Iran (TCI) of which a controlling stake is owned by Etemad-e Mobin, an IRGC-affiliated consortium. Orange is also in talks to buy Iran’s largest cellular operator Mobile Telecommunication Co. of Iran, a subsidiary of IRGC-affiliated TCI.
Launched a campaign calling on British telecom firm Creativity Software to stop selling technology to Iran that facilitates oppression. Creativity has done business in Iran through a partnership with regime-controlled MTN Irancell, a firm known to illegally monitor and track Iranian citizens. In 2011, Creativity reportedly sold MTN Irancell a location-tracking system that can track a target's movement every 15 seconds and plot the locations on a map.
Blue Coat Systems is a U.S. telecom company whose products can be used for surveillance purposes such as web filtering and traffic analysis. Six Blue Coat devices have reportedly been found in Iran, each one capable of monitoring thousands of users. Among them, one is present on the Information Technology Co. network, owned and operated by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Following discussions with UANI, Irish telecommunications firm AdaptiveMobile announced to UANI that it ended all business in Iran and terminated its contracts with MTN Irancell. In 2008 AdaptiveMobile sold technology to Iran that filters, blocks and stores text messages. Text message monitoring was required by Iranian security forces.
In October 2012, following UANI’s campaign, French satellite provider Eutelsat and British telecom firm Arqiva terminated their contract with Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) to broadcast 19 television and radio stations. UANI had called on Eutelsat and Arqiva to cease all services to IRIB given its use as a propaganda tool to televise "show trials" as well as the interrogation and coerced statements of Iranians unjustly imprisoned and tortured by the regime. In February 2014, Eutelsat restarted its transmission of IRIB broadcasts after the Obama administration waived sanctions on the Iranian state broadcaster.
In December 2012, in response to UANI's campaign, Spanish satellite operator Hispasat ended its broadcasting of Iranian regime programming. Specifically, Hispasat ceased transmissions of the Iranian channels Press TV and HispanTV. In June 2014, Hispasat renewed its transmissions of the Spanish-language IRIB channel HispanTV after the Obama administration waived sanctions on IRIB in February 2014.
Following discussions with UANI, Canadian global satellite operator Telesat announced that it had ended its broadcast of Iranian regime programming and would refrain from business with the Government of Iran and affiliated entities.
Following discussions with UANI, Hong Kong global satellite operator AsiaSat announced that it had ended its broadcast of Iranian regime programming and would refrain from business with the Government of Iran and affiliated entities.
Launched a campaign calling on South Korean electronics firm LG to stop selling surveillance products to Iran through regime-controlled entities.