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US seizes 92 domains used by Iran to spread 'fake news'

Effort to curtail spread of misinformation comes just weeks ahead of US presidential election
Google initiated the investigation by providing intelligence to the FBI.
Google initiated investigation by providing intelligence to FBI (AFP/File photo)
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The US Justice Department seized 92 websites it said were used by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to spread disinformation.

The department said on Wednesday that four of the websites were disguised as genuine news outlets based in the US, while the others had been spreading Iranian propaganda online.

The other 88 domains targeted audiences in Europe, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, while similarly claiming to be genuine local news sites that were actually being operated to "spread pro-Iranian disinformation".

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According to a statement from the department, Google initiated the investigation by providing intelligence to the FBI, while Facebook and Twitter also helped.

"We will continue to use all of our tools to stop the Iranian Government from misusing US companies and social media to spread propaganda covertly, to attempt to influence the American public secretly, and to sow discord," said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers.

"Fake news organizations have become a new outlet for disinformation spread by authoritarian countries as they continue to try to undermine our democracy."

In recent weeks, both Twitter and Facebook have increased their efforts to stop misinformation and foreign interference ahead of the US presidential election.

During last week's presidential debate, Twitter said it removed 130 Iran-linked accounts "attempting to disrupt the public conversation".

And on Tuesday, Facebook, which also owns Instagram and WhatsApp, said that it would remove pages, groups and accounts "representing QAnon", a baseless and xenophobic conspiracy theory that claims a network of "deep state" actors is working behind the scenes against President Donald Trump to create a new world order.