U.S. DOJ Seizes And Shuts Down Dozens Of Iran-Linked News Websites Which Spread ‘Disinformation’
Ebrahim Raisi, Iran's president, holds his first news conference following his victory in the presidential election in Tehran, Iran, on Monday, June 21, 2021. World powers and Iran failed after a sixth round of negotiations in Vienna to revive a nuclear deal that would lift U.S. sanctions on the oil-rich Islamic Republic in exchange for it scaling back its atomic activities.
Ali Mohammadi/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The U.S. Justice Department seized more than 30 website domains with links to Iranian state media as part of a strategy to counter Iran’s propaganda efforts, according to a press release.

“Today, pursuant to court orders, the United States seized 33 websites used by the Iranian Islamic Radio and Television Union (IRTVU) and three websites operated by Kata’ib Hizballah (KH), in violation of U.S. sanctions,” the U.S. Department of Justice announced in a press release titled, “United States Seizes Websites Used by the Iranian Islamic Radio and Television Union and Kata’ib Hizballah.”

“On Oct. 22, 2020, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated IRTVU as a Specially Designated National (SDN) for being owned or controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force (IRGC),” the release explained. 

According to the Justice Department, SDNs are “prohibited from obtaining services, including website and domain services, in the United States without an OFAC license.” 

“OFAC’s announcement explained that components of the government of Iran, to include IRTVU and others like it, disguised as news organizations or media outlets, targeted the United States with disinformation campaigns and malign influence operations,” the release continued. “Thirty-three of the websites seized today were operated by IRTVU. The 33 domains are owned by a United States company. IRTVU did not obtain a license from OFAC prior to utilizing the domain names.”

The release added that three additional websites seized were operated by KH.

“On July 2, 2009, OFAC designated KH an SDN, and the Department of State designated KH a Foreign Terrorist Organization. The announcements described KH as an Iraqi terrorist organization that committed, directed, supported or posed a significant risk of committing acts of violence against Coalition and Iraqi Security Forces,” the release stated. “OFAC further explained that the IRGC provides lethal support to KH and other Iraqi Shia militia groups who target and kill Coalition and Iraqi Security Forces. The three domains operated by KH were owned by a United States company. KH did not obtain a license from OFAC prior to utilizing the domain names.”

“These website seizures were investigated by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security, Office of Export Enforcement and the FBI. The National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section prosecuted the seizure,” the release said.

The release concluded by noting that “The National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section is investigating this matter in coordination with the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division and Atlanta Field Office.”

The Associated Press also reported that the U.S. government “took over the domain name of the news website Palestine Today, which reflects the viewpoints of Gaza-based Islamic militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad, redirecting the site to the same takedown notice.”

Last October, the Department of Justice announced the takedown of nearly 100 websites linked to Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard,” The Associated Press added. “The U.S. said the sites, operating under the guise of genuine news outlets, were waging a ‘global disinformation campaign’ to influence U.S. policy and push Iranian propaganda around the world.”

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