Hillicon Valley — US aims to boost Iranian internet

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The Biden administration eased some sanctions on Iran in an effort to help boost internet access for Iranian people amid protests.  

Meanwhile, a new report found the largest online forum of the “incel” movement has seen an increase in calls for violence.  

This is Hillicon Valley, detailing all you need to know about tech and cyber news from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley. Send tips to The Hill’s Rebecca Klar and Ines Kagubare. Subscribe here.

Easing back restrictions

The Treasury Department announced exceptions to Iranian sanctions Friday to allow companies to provide more online services in the country after Iran’s government cut internet access for most of the country amid protests.

The guidance authorized tech companies to offer Iranian people with more options for secure, outside platforms and services, the department said in an announcement.  

The update seeks to modernize the existing sanction exemptions for companies to provide internet access by adding exceptions for social media platforms, video conferencing services and cloud-based services. 

  • “With these changes, we are helping the Iranian people be better equipped to counter the government’s efforts to surveil and censor them,” Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Wally Adeyemo said in a statement.
  • The department will continue issuing guidance to support the free flow of information in Iran in the coming weeks, Adeyemo added.
  • The update from the Biden administration comes after the Iranian government cut the internet for most of its citizens after the violent crackdown on peaceful protests in the country. The protests were spurred by the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman, in police custody.

Read more here.  

‘Incel’ movement ramps up calls for violence

The largest online forum of the “incel” movement has seen an increase in calls for violence, according to a report released Friday. 

The Center for Countering Digital Hate found a 59 percent increase in the use of terms and codewords related to acts of mass violence on the “incel” forum, after analyzing more than 1 million posts between January 2021 and July 2022.

  • The term “incel” was created as a shorthand for “involuntary celibate” but has come to refer to a predominately male movement that promotes hatred and violence against women and other groups.
  • The “incel” movement has been linked to dozens of deaths, including a 2014 massacre in Isla Vista, Calif., that left six dead and 14 injured, the report noted. 

“Hateful” and “dehumanizing” language is central to the movement, with 21 percent of all posts on the “incel” forum studied for Friday’s report featuring misogynistic, racist and homophobic language. 

Read more here. 

AN ‘EXTREME RISK’  

Former Twitter employee Anika Navaroli said the company’s tolerance of former President Trump led her to take the “extreme risk” of testifying before the Jan. 6 Committee, according to an interview with The Washington Post. 

“I realize that by being who I am and doing what I’m doing, I’m opening myself and my family to extreme risk,” Navaroli told the Post. “It’s terrifying. This has been one of the most isolating times of my life.”

The Jan. 6 Committee revealed testimony in July from the previously unidentified whistleblower, who told the committee that for months she had been “begging and anticipating and attempting to raise the reality that … if we made no intervention into what I saw occurring, then people were going to die.” 

“On Jan. 5, I realized no intervention was coming and … and we were at the whims, at the mercy of a violent crowd that was locked and loaded,” Navaroli testified. 

Read more here. 

BITS & PIECES

An op-ed to chew on: How the CHIPS and Science act can revolutionize US tech diversity 

Notable links from around the web: 

The Most Dominant Toxic Election Narratives Online (The New York Times / Cecilia Kang) 

Outside audit says Facebook restricted Palestinian posts during Gaza war (The Washington Post / Elizabeth Dwoskin) 

U.S. vs. China: The Race to Launch the Next Generation of Space Telescope (The Wall Street Journal)

🎵  Lighter click: Friendly reminder 

One more thing: Assessing crypto threats

The innovation office of the U.S. military is introducing an effort to assess cryptocurrency threats to national security and law enforcement, aiding authorities in preventing illegal uses of digital assets. 

“The program underway here involves mapping out the cryptocurrency universe in some detail,” DARPA program manager Mark Flood told The Washington Post. 

He continued: “We just need to acknowledge that the financial sector may be a component of modern warfare going forward, and anything we can do to reinforce and protect the U.S. financial sector and our allies’ financial sectors is beneficial.” 

Read more here.

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s Technology and Cybersecurity pages for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you next week.

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