The U.S. seized 92 domains used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to spread disinformation and propaganda under the guise of news outlets, the Department of Justice said Wednesday.
Four of the domains purported to be “genuine news outlets” but were controlled by Iran and targeted the U.S. for the spread of Iranian propaganda to influence U.S. domestic and foreign policy, the Justice Department said.
The remainder of the websites targeted audiences in Western Europe, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, similarly disguising themselves as news outlets while being controlled by Iran and spreading pro-Iranian disinformation.
The Justice Department identified the four domains targeting the U.S. as “newsstand7.com,” “usjournal.net,” “usjournal.us” and “twtoday.net.” The domains violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act by operating without proper registration and not conspicuously notifying the public the contents were being published on behalf of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, according to the agency.
Visitors to the websites will receive a message that the domain was seized by the FBI.
“We will continue to use all of our tools to stop the Iranian Government from misusing U.S. companies and social media to spread propaganda covertly, to attempt to influence the American public secretly, and to sow discord,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers said in the announcement.
“Fake news organizations have become a new outlet for disinformation spread by authoritarian countries as they continue to try to undermine our democracy. Today’s actions show that we can use a variety of laws to vindicate the value of transparency,” Demers added.
The seizure comes as officials have continued to warn against foreign interference seeking to influence this year’s election.
Last week Twitter said it removed about 130 accounts linked to Iran that were attempting to disrupt the public conversation during the first presidential debate. The company said it had removed the accounts “based on intel” provided by the FBI.