The US is repeating its offer of a $10 million reward for information on two Iranians accused of attempting to influence the 2020 US elections through a state-sponsored online campaign, according to a US Department of State statement released on Tuesday.
The two men were charged in November 2021 over their alleged involvement in hacking an undisclosed media company.
Seyyed Mohammad Hosein Musa Kazemi and Sajjad Kashian also allegedly purported to be members of the Proud Boys far-right group and threatened to physically harm people who did not vote for President Donald Trump, in an email and social media campaign.
The charges, published by the Department of Justice, allege that the men disseminated material online suggesting that the elections were unreliable, eroding trust in the country’s democratic system.
The material in question claimed that the Democratic Party was planning to exploit “serious security vulnerabilities” in state voter registration websites to “edit mail-in ballots or even register non-existent voters.”
They are also accused of hacking into the voter information website of an undisclosed US state and downloading the details of around 100,000 people.
Both men worked for an Iranian cyber company called Emennet Pasargad, believed to have been responsible for the online interference campaign that ran from at least August through November 2020, the press release said.
Kazemi and Kashian are both charged with one count of conspiracy to commit computer fraud and abuse, intimidate voters, and transmit interstate threats; one count of transmission of interstate threats; and one count of voter intimidation.
The first two charges carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison, and the third carries a maximum one-year prison sentence.
Kazemi is additionally charged with one count of unauthorized computer intrusion; and one count of computer fraud, namely, knowingly damaging a protected computer, according to the statement.
The first count carries a maximum five-year prison sentence, while the second carries a ten-year maximum sentence.
Authorities in the US have been espousing claims of online interference in elections by foreign agents since at least October 2016, when the government accused Russia of hacking the Democratic National Convention committee and leaking information to Wikileaks.
US Special Consul Robert Mueller in 2018 indicted a Russian company known as the Internet Research Agency (IRA) for sowing disinformation online by promoting various conspiracy theories on social media platforms.
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