Remarks by Sanjay Virmani About IRGC Covert Influence Campaign

Sanjay Virmani describes FBI San Francisco’s work in disrupting a covert influence campaign by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, known also as the IRGC.


Video Transcript

My name is Sanjay Virmani with the FBI San Francisco Division. I am the assistant special agent in charge of the Cyber Branch. 

 I’m here to talk about FBI San Francisco’s work in disrupting a covert influence campaign by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, known also as the IRGC. 

On October 7 and November 3, 2020, the U.S. government seized a total of 119 domains controlled by the IRGC.  All of the domains were being used in violation of U.S. sanctions. Eight of the domains purported to be genuine, independent news outlets. 

However, they were actually controlled by the IRGC to target the United States with pro-Iranian propaganda. This was an attempt to covertly influence the American people to change U.S. policy concerning Iran and the Middle East. This activity was illegal and violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act, known as FARA.

The central purpose of FARA is to promote transparency with respect to foreign influence within the United States. In this case, the IRGC attempted to use social media accounts to promote these domains and to spread propaganda. 

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.

This case is a perfect example of why the FBI San Francisco Division maintains an ongoing relationship with a variety of social media and technology companies. These relationships enable a quick exchange of information to better protect against threats to the nation’s security and our democratic processes.

The FBI also urges the public to remain vigilant about the information they find and share on social media. Every citizen must do their part to use a critical eye and look for trusted sources of information. We all have a role to play in protecting the American democratic system from foreign adversaries.

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