The Department of Justice on Wednesday seized the domain names of 92 websites that it says Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps was using to spread propaganda and disinformation to American audiences.
Iran and the IRGC used these websites to "spread propaganda covertly" and "sow discord" among the American public ahead of the 2020 presidential elections, according to John Demers, assistant attorney general for national security. Iran has spent great resources trying to influence the election in favor of Democratic challenger Joe Biden, and its operation of these websites violates U.S. sanctions.
At least four of these websites were set up to appear as news outlets. They were, however, actually controlled by the IRGC, Iran's paramilitary fighting force responsible for conducting cyber operations on the Islamic Republic's behalf. This behavior violates the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which mandates that foreign governments disclose their activities in the United States. Visitors to these websites will now only see a Department of Justice notice about the domain name seizure.
Internet and technology giant Google assisted the Trump administration in its investigation, according to FBI special agent in charge John Bennett.
"This case is a perfect example of why the FBI San Francisco Division prioritizes maintaining an ongoing relationship with a variety of social media and technology companies," Bennett said in a statement. "These relationships enable a quick exchange of information to better protect against threats to the nation's security and our democratic processes."