Call on Google to Lift Anti-Censorship Blocks on Iranian People

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Call on Google to Lift Anti-Censorship Blocks on Iranian People

This petition had 9,900 supporters
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Google Inc. and

Why this petition matters

Started by Azadeh Akbari

Over the past few days, Iranians all over the country have been protesting and standing up for their basic human rights. So far, at least  21 people have died, with at least 450 people arrested alone in Tehran.

Iranians have been using social media applications such as Telegram, a messaging app that offered them a crucial platform for the free flow of information, often used to connect and organise effectively. 

On 31st December 2017, Iran blocked the use of Telegram in an attempt to stop the anti-government protests across the country from spreading further as part of a clampdown on Iranian citizens' internet communications.

This has resulted in many Iranians turning to alternatives to communicate, either local platforms or turning to insecure and compromised circumvention tools to bypass the filters. The risk of surveillance and further repression by the Iranian authorities is often very real.

As an alternative to the now blocked Telegram, Iranians could potentially use secure messaging apps such as ‘Signal’ to connect and organise. Trusted by well-respected cryptographers and privacy advocates, Signal has been long targeted by repressive governments and censored in countries like Iran and Egypt. In Egypt however, the platform was able to make use of an in-built circumvention technique called ‘domain fronting’.

According to cybersecurity expert Collin Anderson, Signal’s feature to bypass filtering uses a cloud platform called Google App Engine (GAE) to conceal traffic. However, Google's decision to filter GAE in Iran means Google is denying Iranians access to Signal’s circumvention features.

In a recent interview, Dr Steven Murdoch, a security researcher in the Computer Science Department at University College London, noted that this decision by Google could be due to export control. 

Additionally, Anderson notes that in reality GAE could be labelled as cloud services which would be exempt from sanctions. GAE could possibly be exempt under OFAC  GL D-1 under which, Google could make GAE available to users in Iran allowing them to connect safely.

Alternatively, Google could simply whitelist important services that use AppEngine such as Signal. This way Google would not be violating their own interpretation of sanction laws. With this, Google could potentially aid in secure and unfiltered communications in Iran and live up to its own slogan of 'AppEngine for All'-including Iranians.

Please sign this petition to: 

  1. Call on Google Inc. & Google Limited UK to investigate this matter immediately.
  2. Call on Google to either lift the block the company has placed on its service of Google AppEngine for Iranian users or whitelist safe messaging applications such as Signal for Iranian users.
  3. Call on U.S & UK politicians and officials to stand by their words to support the Iranian people and free flow of information, urging Google to investigate this matter, encouraging Google to provide a solution on this matter immediately. 

Please help us spread the word by sharing this petition and use #GoogleForIran 

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