This week, the United States announced that it captured as many as 92 domain names that an Iran-linked rival was leveraging in a worldwide propaganda drive.
It said that four of the domains appeared to be authentic news outlets, but they were controlled by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to propagate Iranian propaganda aiming the US, while the rest of the websites were spreading disinformation to other countries.
The way in which these domains were being used breached sanctions the U.S. levied on both the government of Iran and the IRGC.
As of April 2019, the US has nominated the IRGC as a foreign radical organization. The organization was reported to have provided material support to extremist groups such as Hizballah, Hamas, and the Taliban.
On October 7, pursuant to a capture warrant, the United States seized 92 domain names that were being run in violation of federal law. Four of these were detained pursuant to the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), which needs the proposal of episodic registration statements about activities and income.
“The four domains purported to be independent news outlets, but were actually operated by or on behalf of the IRGC to target the United States with pro-Iranian propaganda in an attempt to influence the American people to change United States foreign and domestic policy toward Iran and the Middle East,” the U.S. Department of Justice says.
The DoJ explains that these domains targeted an audience in the U.S. without proper process pursuant to FARA and also failed to inform the audience that the IRGC and the government of Iran were in control of the published content.