US seizes Iranian websites over disinformation claims

It also took down three sites owned by an Iraqi-based group.

Wana News Agency / reuters

The US government has seized 33 websites owned by the Iranian Islamic Radio and Television Union (IRTVU), as well as three other sites owned by Iraqi-based Kata’ib Hizballah (KH), after the groups violated US sanctions, the Department of Justice said in a statement yesterday. Specifically, the DOJ accused the news sites of spreading disinformation, which brings to mind the October announcement from then Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, calling out Iran and Russia for using misinformation to interfere with US elections. The seized sites include Press TV, the English-language side of Iran's state TV, and Palestine Today, which focuses on viewpoints from Islamic militant groups like Hamas, the Washington Post reports.

The DOJ says the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) had labeled IRTVU as a Specially Designated National (SDN) in October, due to its direct ties to Iran. That label basically prevents organizations from obtaining US services without a license from OFAC. The DOJ notes that neither IRTVU or KH acquired OFAC licenses for the seized domains, even though the domains were owned by US companies.

In October, the DOJ also announced that it seized 92 domains tied to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard, after saying they were part of a global disinformation campaign. it's not just the US government making similar claims either. In September, Microsoft also announced that Iran, Russia and China were behind persistent hacking attempts meant to meddle with US elections.