The seized domains are American-owned but were used by Iranian media, according to the US in violation of sanctions against Tehran
The United States have suspended access to dozens of web domains linked to Iran, thus blocking many news sites accused of spread disinformation online. The US Justice Department made it known on Tuesday with a note. “In compliance with court orders, the United States has seized 33 websites used by the Iranian Islamic Radio and Television Union (Irtvu) and three websites operated by Kata’ib Hezballah (Kh), in violation of sanctions Americans “, the US Department of Justice explained in its statement. “Elements of the Iranian government, under the cover of the press, have targeted the United States to undermine American democratic processes,” the note continues.
The Iranian Islamic Radio and Television Union was flagged by the US government last October for its alleged attempts to influence US elections by spreading false news. Kata’ib Hezbollah, an Iraqi paramilitary group that supports Iran, was included by the US on the list of terrorist organizations ten years ago.
The Press TV site, the Iranian state broadcaster in English, is also unreachable. To users who try to connect to this, as to other sites, an inscription appears that reads that “The domain presstv.com was kidnapped by the United States government in accordance with an 18 USC seizure warrant […] as part of a law enforcement action by the FBI “. The domains belong to American companies but, according to the Justice Department, the foreign media did not have the necessary licenses to use them.
An Iranian official at the United Nations defined “illegal” the American seizure of Iranian domains in the United States. Contacted by the Iranian news agency Irna, the official denounced the initiative as one “Limitation of freedom of expression”.
It is not the first time that the United States has seized domain names of sites it accuses of spreading disinformation. Last October, the Justice Department announced the removal of quasi 100 websites linked to the powerful Iranian Revolutionary Guard.
Relations between Iran and the United States are deteriorate in recent years after President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Tehran nuclear deal and the imposition of heavy economic sanctions on the country. The blocking of these sites comes a few days after the election as president of Iran of ultraconservative magistrate Ebrahim Raisi, known for his hostility towards the West.