US Department of Justice says it thwarted Russian social media influence operation | Technology News

The U.S. Department of Justice reports that it disrupted a Russian government-backed AI-enabled propaganda campaign that used bot farms to spread disinformation.

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

Tuesday’s news comes four months before the U.S. presidential election, which security experts widely see as a target for foreign adversaries’ hacking and covert influence efforts through social media, and U.S. government officials have publicly said they are monitoring plots to disrupt the vote.

The Department of Justice has seized two domain names allegedly linked to the operation and received court approval to search approximately 1,000 social media accounts.

“With these actions, the Department of Justice has disrupted a Russian government-backed, AI-enabled propaganda operation that used bot farms to spread disinformation at home and abroad,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.

Tuesday’s action was the first time the United States has publicly accused a foreign government of using generative AI for foreign influence operations, according to Justice Department and FBI officials. U.S. officials have warned that adversaries could step up efforts to harness the growing power of AI systems to spread misinformation.

Kremlin-funded efforts

Prosecutors said the operation was carried out through a Russia-based private intelligence agency and staffed by Russian intelligence officers and senior officials from the Moscow-based government-funded news outlet Russia Today (RT), and was approved and funded by the Kremlin in early 2023, according to the Justice Department.

The Russian Embassy in Washington and a spokesman for RT did not respond to requests for comment.

According to court documents, the private organization designed a custom, AI-powered platform to create, control and manage hundreds of fake social accounts that appeared to belong to real Americans.

The accounts were subsequently banned on social media platform “X,” which frequently posted pro-Russia talking points, including videos of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and criticized the Ukrainian government.

The US worked with Dutch authorities on the investigation, and investigators said the attack was launched from servers in the Netherlands.

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