The US Department of Justice (DOJ) announced on Wednesday that it seized 27 online domains, claiming the websites were controlled by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The DOJ seized the domains under the guise of enforcing US sanctions against Iran and the IRGC.
Wednesday’s announcement followed the seizure of 92 domains in October that the DOJ also claimed were operated by Iran. The DOJ purports that the domains were being used to spread “Iranian propaganda” and “disinformation.”
The DOJ and the FBI work with US tech companies to make these seizures. “Thanks to our ongoing collaboration with Google, Facebook, and Twitter, the FBI was able to disrupt this Iranian propaganda campaign and we will continue to pursue any attempts by foreign actors to spread disinformation in our country,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Craig D. Fair said in a statement.
Among the domains seized on Wednesday were four news websites the DOJ seized under the guise of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). The claim against the websites is that they targeted US audiences without disclosing ties to a foreign government.
“Here, the four domains purported to be independent news outlets, but they were actually operated by or on behalf of the IRGC to target the United States with pro-Iranian propaganda in an attempt to covertly influence the American people to change United States policy concerning Iran and the Middle East,” the DOJ said.
One of the news sites taken down was the American Herald Tribune (AHT), a website whose editor in chief, Anthony Hall, is based in Canada. It’s not clear how the US government decided that AHT or the other websites are affiliated with Iran.
Investigative journalist Gareth Porter wrote about social media censorship AHT has faced. Porter’s report says the FBI encouraged Facebook, Instagram, and Google to remove or restrict ads on AHT. In 2018, AHT’s Facebook page was deleted, and the outlets account on Facebook-run Instagram was also removed.
In January of this year, CNN published a story that claimed AHT was founded in Iran. CNN quoted an unnamed official from the cyber-security firm FireEye. According to Porter, FireEye boasts that it has contracts with “nearly every department in the United States government.”
The official told CNN that FireEye had “assessed” with “moderate confidence” that the AHT’s website was founded in Iran and was “part of a larger influence operation.” The term “moderate confidence” comes from US intelligence agencies and means there is plenty of room for doubt.
AHT published authors with dissenting views, who often criticized US foreign policy towards Iran. If the DOJ uses shaky assessments like the one from FireEye to take these sites down, it sets a dangerous precedent for independent media outlets.
10 thoughts on “DOJ Seizes 27 Domains, Claims They are Controlled by Iran”
The DOJ and the FBI work with US tech companies to make these seizures. “Thanks to our ongoing collaboration with Google, Facebook, and Twitter”.
This connivance with government and private sector entities should scare all Americans.
censorship reflects a society that has no confidence in itself
The Ministry of Truth deciding what we shall read hear and see…Brave New World.
I can say with supreme confidence that the American people are being played by, ostensibly, their own “security services”.
Death to spies!
Three replies & off to a very good start I’d say…
The websites have nothing to do with Iran…!
I think everyone should be concerned when “our” crack team from DOJ (or FBI) swings into action.
It is guaranteed that it will either be completely mucked up or there is a sinister element to shut down legitimate alternative info sites.
One of the news sites taken down seems to be the American Herald Tribune. The claim is that Iran owned it. However, they were American writers, known and paid in the normal way. I liked their take on some issues, and just found today they are gone.
What utter shit, do people actually believe this?
Typical hypocritical behavior of governments, this time the US, one of the major propaganda outlets, except possibly for Israel. Israel, by the way spends many millions of dollars a year in a tremendous onslaught of lies, disinformation, and other propaganda on US soil. Look for Al Jazeera’s 4 part documentary series on this, in which undercover work performed by an American Jew who worked for Al Jazeera and infiltrated the Israeli Hasbara network. The series was censored, but you can still find it. In fact, I’d bet my shirt that Israel is involved in these egregious actions by the US government.
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