US DOJ says it disrupted Russian social media influence operation | Technology News

The US Department of Justice reports that it disrupted a Russian-government-backed, AI-enabled propaganda campaign to use a bot farm to spread disinformation.

The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) has disrupted a Russian operation that used fake social media accounts enhanced by artificial intelligence to covertly spread pro-Kremlin messages in the US and abroad, it said.

The news on Tuesday comes four months before the US presidential election, which security experts widely believe will be the target of both hacking and covert social media influence attempts by foreign adversaries. Senior US officials have said publicly that they are monitoring for schemes intended to disrupt the vote.

The  DOJ secured court approval to seize two domain names and search nearly 1,000 social media accounts allegedly associated with the effort.

“With these actions, the Justice Department has disrupted a Russian-government-backed, AI-enabled propaganda campaign to use a bot farm to spread disinformation in the United States and abroad,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.

Tuesday’s action marked the first time the US has publicly accused a foreign government of using generative AI in a foreign influence operation, according to DOJ and FBI officials. US officials have warned that adversaries may use the growing power of AI systems to scale up efforts to spread misinformation.

Kremlin-funded effort

The alleged operation, according to prosecutors, was created through a private intelligence organisation based in Russia staffed by Russian intelligence officers and a senior employee of the Moscow-based, government-funded news outlet Russia Today, or RT. The effort was approved and funded by the Kremlin in early 2023, according to the DOJ.

Spokespersons for the Russian embassy in Washington and RT did not respond to requests for comment.

This private organisation had designed a custom, AI-powered platform to create, control and manage hundreds of fake social accounts, which were made to look like those of real Americans, according to court documents.

The accounts on social media platform X have since been banned. They commonly posted pro-Kremlin talking points, including videos of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and criticised the Ukrainian government.

The US worked with Dutch authorities on the investigation. The campaign was run from a server in the Netherlands, according to investigators.

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