US Removes Iran-Linked News Sites, Accuses Disinformation | Your money
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) – US authorities seized a series of domains from Iranian state-linked news websites that they accused of spreading disinformation, the US Department of Justice said on Tuesday, a move that appeared to be a far-reaching crackdown on Iranian media amid heightened tensions between the two countries.
The Justice Department said 33 of the seized websites were used by the Islamic Radio and Television Union of Iran, which was singled out by the US government last October for what officials described as efforts to spread disinformation and sow discord among American voters ahead of the 2020 presidential election. election. The United States says three other seized websites were operated by Kata’ib Hezbollah, which more than a decade ago was designated a foreign terrorist organization.
The website’s domains are owned by US companies, but despite the sanctions, neither the IRTVU nor KH have obtained the required licenses from the US government before using the domain names, according to the Department of Justice.
The Justice Department’s announcement came hours after Iran’s IRNA news agency revealed the US government seizures without providing further information.
The dismantling comes as world powers scramble to resuscitate Tehran’s tattered 2015 nuclear deal and just days after the election victory of Iranian justice chief Ebrahim Raisi. Monday, Raisi, known for his hostility to the West, took an uncompromising position during his first press conference. He ruled out possibilities of meeting with President Joe Biden or negotiating over Tehran’s ballistic missile program and support for regional militias – concerns the Biden administration wants to address in future talks.
Relations between Iran and the United States have deteriorated for years after President Donald Trump withdrew from the Tehran nuclear deal and the return of devastating sanctions against the country. This move saw Iran, over time, gradually abandon all uranium enrichment limits. The country is now enriching uranium to 60%, its highest level ever, although it is still below military grade levels.
Iran is supporting militant groups in the region, such as the Lebanese Hezbollah and the Houthi rebels in Yemen, as it seeks to exert its influence in the distance and counter its enemies.
Visiting the addresses of a handful of sites on Tuesday, including Press TV, the English-language channel of Iranian state television, the Yemeni Houthi-run satellite news channel Al-Masirah and the Arabic-language channel of Iranian state television, Al-Alam, produced a federal withdrawal. note. He said the websites were seized “in connection with law enforcement action” by the US Bureau of Industry and Security, the Office of Export Enforcement and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. .
The US government also took over the domain name of the Palestine Today news site, which reflects the views of Gaza-based Islamic militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad, redirecting the site to the same takedown notice.
Press TV, launched in June 2007, is the English-language broadcasting service of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Its Iran-based website, PressTV.ir, was not affected.
Most of the domains entered appeared to be “.net”, “.com” and “.tv” domains. The first two are generic top-level domains as opposed to country-specific domains, while “.tv” is owned by the Pacific island nation of Tuvalu but is administered by the US company Verisign. Seizing a domain on a top-level domain specific to a major country, such as Iran’s “.ir”, would likely produce widespread international condemnation as a violation of sovereignty.
This is not the first time the United States has seized the domain names of sites it accuses of spreading disinformation.
Last October, the Justice Department announced the removal of nearly 100 websites linked to powerful Iranian Revolutionary Guards. The United States said the sites, operating under the guise of actual news organizations, were waging a “global campaign of disinformation” to influence US policy and push Iranian propaganda around the world.
Yemen’s Houthi rebel group said its Al-Masirah satellite news channel was disconnected Tuesday without notice. He said the channel would continue with its mission of “dealing with American and Israeli acts of piracy against our nation, by all means”.
Responsibility to provide a name service for the domain name pressetv.com was apparently switched to an Amazon nameserver on Tuesday mid-afternoon European time, said Ron Guilmette, an internet infrastructure expert. RiskIQ cybersecurity researchers found a total of 24 seized sites sharing the same Amazon nameserver.
There are no private television or radio stations in Iran. Satellite dishes, although widespread, are also illegal. This leaves the IRIB with the monopoly of national airwaves.
Marzieh Hashemi, a prominent Press TV presenter who in 2019 was arrested as an important witness in an unspecified criminal case and appeared before a grand jury in Washington, told The Associated Press that the channel had to hard to “understand the reasons” for the seizure.
During its broadcast in Iran, Press TV mainly focuses on international affairs through the prism of how the leaders of the Islamic Republic view the world. Fierce criticism of British and American foreign policy is common. Since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, the IRIB has been in the hands of hard-line supporters who support the Iranian government.
Press TV has already had problems with Western authorities because of its reporting. The Anti-Defamation League criticized the channel as “one of the world’s leading distributors of conspiratorial anti-Semitism in English”.
Tucker reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Frank Bajak in Boston contributed to this report.
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