US disrupts Russian disinformation campaign

A Russian internet propaganda campaign backed by the Kremlin that spread disinformation in the United States and relied on artificial intelligence has been disrupted. That's according to the U.S. Justice Department, which announced Tuesday that it seized nearly 1,000 bogus social media accounts.

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July 9, 2024 - 2:46 PM

This May 4, 2021 file photo shows a sign outside the Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice building in Washington. A Russian internet propaganda campaign backed by the Kremlin that spread disinformation in the United States and relied on artificial intelligence has been disrupted. Photo by AP Photo/Patrick Semansky/FILE

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Russian internet propaganda campaign backed by the Kremlin that spread disinformation in the United States and relied on artificial intelligence has been disrupted, the Justice Department said Tuesday in announcing the seizure of nearly 1,000 bogus social media accounts.

Officials described the operation as part of an ongoing effort to sow discord in the U.S. through the creation of fictitious social media profiles that purported to belong to legitimate users but were actually designed to advance the aims of the Russian government, including by spreading disinformation about its war with Ukraine.

U.S. officials said the scheme was organized in 2022 by a senior editor at RT, a Russian-state funded media organization that has registered with the Justice Department as a foreign agent. It received the support and financial approval of the Kremlin, with an officer of Russia’s Federal Security Service — or FSB — leading a private intelligence organization that promoted disinformation through social media.

An email to RT was not immediately returned Tuesday.

The disruption of the so-called social media bot farm comes as U.S. officials have raised alarms about the potential for AI technology to impact American elections and amid ongoing concerns that foreign influence campaigns by adversaries could shape the opinions of unsuspecting voters, like an elaborate plot by Russians to disrupt the 2016 presidential election through a huge but hidden social media trolling campaign aimed in part at helping Republican Donald Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton.

“Today’s actions represent a first in disrupting a Russian-sponsored Generative AI-enhanced social media bot farm,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a statement. “Russia intended to use this bot farm to disseminate AI-generated foreign disinformation, scaling their work with the assistance of AI to undermine our partners in Ukraine and influence geopolitical narratives favorable to the Russian government.”

Among the fake posts, according to the Justice Department, was a video that was posted by a purported Minneapolis, Minnesota resident that showed Russian President Vladimir Putin saying that areas of Ukraine, Poland and Lithuania were “gifts” to those countries from liberating Russian forces during World War II.

As part of the disruption, the Justice Department seized two domain names and 968 accounts on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

The FBI and the Cyber National Mission Force also worked with with the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security and law enforcement in the Netherlands on a joint cybersecurity advisory about the social media bot farm.

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