Tuesday, the United States Justice Department moved to seize more than 30 Web domains that were linked to Iranian state media in an effort to counter Iranian propaganda and disinformation in a time of tension between the two countries.
The Washington Post reported that several of the domains posted notices on Tuesday stating that they had been removed by the United States government. These included English-language Press TV, Al-Alam TV, and the website for Al-Masirah. There were 33 reported websites used by the Iranian Islamic Radio and Television Union, and three websites operated by Kataib Hezbollah. These seizures targeted Web domains owned by a U.S company, allowing other websites whose domains are not America-owned can continue to operate.
The Justice Department came to this decision during intense negotiations between the United States and Iran to receive a 2015 nuclear deal right after Iran’s new president-elect, Ebrahim Raisi, opted to push against the United States. This essentially ruled out any potential meeting with President Biden, and he announced he would not negotiate over Iran’s ballistic missile program. As of now, there has been no response to the U.S. government’s actions.
Last year, the United States seized more than 100 domain names that were said to be unlawfully used by Iran’s government to engage in a “global disinformation campaign.” Court papers filed in that case reported these domains were being used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Some of the sites seized were known to be spreading Iranian propaganda with the goal of influencing U.S. policy, which violates the Foreign Agents Registration Act. The U.S. government also reported that other sites were spreading Iranian propaganda in other countries. It was declared by U.S. officials that these sites violated U.S. sanctions against both the Iranian government and the IRGC.