On October 7, 2020, the US Department of Justice announced the seizure of 92 domain names used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp to facilitate the spread of disinformation and Iranian propaganda.
Four domains in particular targeted US domestic and foreign policy, in violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which establishes a registration, reporting, and disclosure regime that requires agents of foreign entities to provide the sources of information and the identities of persons attempting to influence US public opinion, policy and law. FARA also requires a conspicuous notice disclosing the source of published content. The four domain names seized pursuant to FARA are: “newsstand7.com,” “usjournal.net,” “usjournal.us,” and “twtoday.net.” In each case, the domain purported to be an independent news outlet inside the US, and did not disclose its IRGC affiliation.
The remaining 88 domains targeted individuals in Western Europe, the Middle East and South East Asia; like the purportedly US-based sites, these domains purported to be genuine news outlets, while in fact engaging in the dissemination of pro-Iranian disinformation for the benefit of the government of Iran.
According to the DOJ, documents connected with the seizure of these domains reveal US sanctions violations, including the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations, that prohibit the provision of services to the Iranian government without a license. Neither the IRGC nor the government of Iran obtained a license from the Office of Foreign Assets Control prior to utilizing US websites and domain services.