- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 8, 2020

The federal government seized 92 websites it says was running an Iranian global disinformation campaign, including several dozen that posed as news outlets but were operated by the Iranian regime.

The federal government’s investigation was prompted by information it received from Google, according to San Francisco FBI Special Agent in Charge John F. Bennett.

The Justice Department said four of the websites were seized under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which requires people engaged in political activities in the U.S. at the behest of a foreign power to register with the government.

The four websites purported to be news outlets, but the Justice Department said they were run by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Iranian government.

Eighty-eight other websites targeted audiences outside the U.S., particularly in Western Europe, the Middle East and Asia, to spread disinformation on behalf of Tehran. The websites operated without licenses from the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, which was required because of U.S. sanctions on Iran.

“We 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,” said John C. Demers, assistant attorney general for national security, in a statement. “Fake news organizations have become a new outlet for disinformation spread by authoritarian countries as they continue to undermine our democracy.”

Mr. Bennett said Google, Facebook and Twitter collaborated with the FBI to make the government’s crackdown possible.

“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,” Mr. 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.”

All of the 92 domains were seized Wednesday under a warrant. The Justice Department published a full list of the offending websites.

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