The Department of Justice announced Wednesday that it had seized 27 online domains on strong suspicion there were set up as media influence campaigns by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
At least four of them were described by the DOJ as targeting an American audience, and one of them was a somewhat popular independent geopolitical news site, called American Herald Tribune:
According to the Department of Justice (DoJ), four of the 27 domain names - "rpfront.com", "ahtribune.com", "awdnews.com", and "criticalstudies.org" - were seized as they breached the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which requires website holders to submit periodic registration statements containing truthful information about their activities and the income earned from them.
The DOJ statement said they purported to be news sites, with in some instances genuine news reporting and analysis, but that ultimately they were fronts for "Iranian propaganda" and "disinformation".
"Here, the four domains purported to be independent news outlets, but they were actually operated by or on behalf of the IRGC to target the United States with pro-Iranian propaganda in an attempt to covertly influence the American people to change United States policy concerning Iran and the Middle East," the DOJ said.
In the case of American Herald Tribune (AHT), the editor in chief, Anthony Hall, is based in Canada and the details proving Iranian affiliation have not been revealed. The online newspaper was known for its critical stance toward US foreign policy and was often linked to by other independent media and anti-war activist sites.
This will only get worse in the coming years, thanks to corporate media collusion with spy agencies to sow panic & fear that unofficial media critical of US empire must be controlled by State Enemies.— Mark Ames (@MarkAmesExiled) November 5, 2020
Added bonus: less competition for corporate media.https://t.co/aq8uVKLvrD
Interestingly the DOJ and FBI sought the cooperation of American big tech firms in the seizure: "Thanks to our ongoing collaboration with Google, Facebook, and Twitter, the FBI was able to disrupt this Iranian propaganda campaign and we will continue to pursue any attempts by foreign actors to spread disinformation in our country," FBI Special Agent in Charge Craig D. Fair announced in a statement.
Screenshot of American Herald Tribune page before it was taken offline:
In October there had been a prior major seizure of 92 domains dubbed by the DOJ as Iranian disinformation outlets. Like in this latest case, US authorities didn't reveal any particular evidence to the public, but in some cases cited allegations by third parties.
Last month federal agencies also said the caught US adversaries, particularly Iran and China, attempting infiltrate and meddle in US election and voter registration data.