Operating a website with a US-based domain name is starting to seem a little less secure Tuesday, with the news that the Justice Department seized multiple Iran-linked media websites’ US domains. Among those seized were PressTV.com, Alalamtv.net, and AlMasirah.net. Paltoday.tv was also taken.
Details are scant, as the Justice Department has neither confirmed the seizures nor made any effort to explain them. The notice suggested it was done under laws that allow forfeiture of property involved in trafficking nuclear technology or material.
That’s not a good excuse, of course, as while these news sites cover details of the JCPOA and its negotiations, that’s not the same thing as trafficking by any stretch of the imagination. Seizing a media outlet, or several, should be a major issue in the US, and the lack of explanation is troubling.
The nuclear program is only one theory, as the Associated Press reported it was just general bans for “disinformation,” and CBS suggested it was specifically reporting related to US elections.
There is no confirmation though. The US State Department refused comment, telling reporters to ask the Justice Department. So far, it does not appear that the Justice Department has offered a statement.
PressTV and AlamTV are both state media outlets run by IRIB (Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting), in English and Arabic, respectively. al-Masirah is a satellite TV station operating in Yemen, aligned closely with the Houthi movement. Palestine Today is a news outlet linked with the Gaza Strip.
The websites themselves don’t appear to be entirely gone, with PressTV still operating from its Iranian domain name. al-Alam is similarly still available that way. The global nature of the Internet, and the US limitation in seizing anything but US-based TLDs, means this is not a reliable method to remove content.
The timing of this is particularly poor, coming just days after Iran’s presidential election, and amid ongoing JCPOA talks on a nuclear deal. The US was critical of the Iranian vote, but seizing domains seems deliberately escalatory.
DISCLOSURE: The author of this article made multiple guest appearances on PressTV.