The United States has imposed sanctions on Iran's Information Minister Mohammad-Javad Asari Jahromi, the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control said in a notice on its website on Friday.
"We are sanctioning Iran's Minister of Information and Communications Technology for restricting internet access, including to popular messaging applications that help tens of millions of Iranians stay connected to each other and the outside world", US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.
The statement comes amid problems with the Internet connection that began in the Iranian capital on 16 November. According to reports, websites with Iranian domains take multiple attempts to load, while the Google and Yandex search engines, as well as sites with the .com domain and those run by other countries, are unavailable.
Azari has directed Iran's policy of Internet censorship since 2017 and has also been involved in the country’s surveillance of opposition activists, the release also said.
Azari is a former member of Iran's Ministry of Intelligence, where he was involved in operations to crackdown on peaceful protests in 2009, the release added.
A wave of protests broke out in several Iranian provinces last week over the government’s decision to increase the price of gasoline. According to local media, some of the rallies were peaceful, while others turned violent and resulted in casualties among protesters and security forces.
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani claims that the protests were organised by the United States and Israel to undermine national security.