SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Federal agents have turned up the heat on the cyber war being waged against Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, seizing 92 digital domain addresses registered in the United States they say were being used to engage in a global disinformation campaign, according to U.S. Attorney David Anderson.
The San Francisco-based Anderson, Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers; and the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI, San Francisco Division, John F. Bennett revealed the seizures on Wednesday.
According to the seizure documents, four of the domains purported to be genuine news outlets were actually controlled by the Revolutionary Guard and targeted the United States for the spread of Iranian propaganda to influence domestic and foreign policy in violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
The remainder, federal officials said, were being used to spread Iranian propaganda to other parts of the world.
The government of Iran and Revolutionary Guard had utilized website and domain services in the United States to register the names.
In addition, the seizure documents describe how all 92 domains were being used in violation of U.S. sanctions targeting both the Government of Iran and the Revolutionary Guard.
“Today we are 92 domains closer to shutting down Iran’s worldwide disinformation campaign,” Anderson said. “This important work will continue. Iran cannot be allowed to hide behind fake news sites. If Iran wants to be heard using U.S. facilities, it must reveal its true colors.”
Demers added that federal authorities “will continue to use all of our tools to stop the Iranian Government from misusing U.S. companies and social media to spread propaganda covertly, to attempt to influence the American public secretly, and to sow discord.”
Bennett said tech companies helped identify the domains.
“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,” he said. “These relationships enable a quick exchange of information to better protect against threats to the nation’s security and our democratic processes.”
Federal authorities seized the 92 domain names on October 7 pursuant to a seizure warrant. The seizure documents describe how the 92 seized domain names were being operated in violation of federal law.
Four of the domain names, “newsstand7.com,” “usjournal.net,” “usjournal.us,” and “twtoday.net,” were seized because they were targeting the United States.
The remaining 88 domains targeted audiences in Western Europe, the Middle East, and South East Asia and masqueraded as genuine news outlets while actually being operated to spread pro-Iranian disinformation around the globe to the benefit of the Government of Iran.