US seizes Iran internet domain names, more sanctions expected

Propaganda outlets aimed at influencing US and also Middle East.
Thursday 08/10/2020
A man walks past a mural painted on the outer walls of the former US embassy in the Iranian capital Tehran. (AFP)
A man walks past a mural painted on the outer walls of the former US embassy in the Iranian capital Tehran. (AFP)

WASHINGTON - The US has seized 92 web domains used by Iran, including four which purported to be genuine English language news sites, the Justice Department announced Wednesday.

The sites were identified first with intelligence from Google and then also with help from Twitter and Facebook, the department said.

Four of them, with the domain names “newsstand7.com,” “usjournal.net,” “usjournal.us,” and “twtoday.net” were “operated by or on behalf” of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to influence United States domestic and foreign policy, the department said.

The other 88 domains also included purported news sites “to spread Iranian propaganda” targeted at Western Europe, the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

Visitors to the websites Wednesday could see a statement saying “This domain has been seized by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”

“We will continue to use all of our tools to stop the Iranian Government from misusing US companies and social media to spread propaganda covertly, to attempt to influence the American public secretly, and to sow discord,” said Assistant Attorney General John Demers.

“Fake news organisations have become a new outlet for disinformation spread by authoritarian countries as they continue to try to undermine our democracy,” Demers said.

The new US measures came amid media reports of impending sanctions to be imposed by Washington on Iran’s financial industry before US elections.

The move, would “effectively shut Iran out of the global financial sector,” said the US-financed radio Farda specialising in Iranian matters.