The US State Department says Washington has been providing VPNs to Iranians for access to the internet, especially since protests began in September 2022.
A State Department official briefed the media on Thursday saying that 30 million Iranians regularly use anti-censorship tools, including VPNs funded by the State Department.
Over the past years, the State Department has been funding a wide range of anti-censorship tools for the people who live in countries without free access to the internet, the US official explained.
Since the beginning of Iran’s September 2022 protests, the number of people using these tools inside Iran has risen exponentially and reached 30 million, roughly half of the adult population.
However, the official added that using these tools costs around 10 cents per user per month and currently the State Department is planning to increase the budget to continue providing this service.
Iran has been restricting and censoring the Internet since 2002, but using different techniques to deny access to users have surged during anti-regime protests.
The US Treasury Department expanded the range of internet services available to Iranians in the early days of the nationwide protests Iran following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in hijab police custody.
In October 2022, a bipartisan and bicameral group of US lawmakers urged Google, Amazon, Meta and other tech companies to facilitate access to online tools for Iranian protesters.
Internet restrictions and the use of anti-filtering tools have surged in Iran since protests began. Iranian hardliners push for restrictions to remain in place as long as street protests continue. Amid the heightened restrictions on Internet access, Iranians’ use of VPNs has risen over 3,000 percent in recent months.