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U.S. foils Russian AI-enhanced bot farm of nearly 1,000 X accounts

Pictured is the profile of an account that was part of Russia's AI-enhanced bot farm that spread disinformation on the X social media platform. Image courtesy of U.S. Department of Justice/Release
Pictured is the profile of an account that was part of Russia's AI-enhanced bot farm that spread disinformation on the X social media platform. Image courtesy of U.S. Department of Justice/Release

July 10 (UPI) -- The United States has foiled a Russian propaganda campaign of nearly 1,000 artificial intelligence-enhanced accounts promoting pro-Kremlin messaging on the X social media platform, prosecutors said.

The Justice Department revealed the covert Russia-controlled social media bot farm Tuesday, saying it consisted of 968 accounts, many purporting to be run by Americans, that targeted the United States, as well as other countries, including Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Ukraine and Israel, with disinformation.

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A joint cybersecurity advisory warning social media companies of the propaganda campaign states Russia used Meliorator covert artificial intelligence software to create the fictitious online personas to assist "Russia in exacerbating discord and trying to alter public opinion."

Those accounts then spread disinformation, with the Justice Department offering as an example one account that purported to be a U.S. constituent that replied to a social media post about Russia's war in Ukraine by a candidate for federal office with a video of President Vladimir Putin of Russian justifying his invasion.

Another account, this one pretending to be a resident of Minnesota, posted a video of Putin stating parts of Poland, Ukraine and Lithuania were so-called gifts to those countries from Russian forces that liberated them from Nazi Germany during World War II.

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"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," FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a statement.

Federal prosecutors said that to register the fictitious social media accounts, the bot farm relied on private email servers tied to two domain names, which the Justice Department also seized Tuesday.

It added that it was developed by the leadership at Russian state-owned RT news channel and operated by the Federal Security Service.

Though the bot farm was only on X, formerly known as Twitter, federal authorities are warning social media platforms that Russian state-sponsored actors are using covert software, such as Meliorator, for foreign malign influence on behalf of Russia.

"As malign actors accelerate their criminal misuse of AI, the Justice Department will respond and we will prioritize disruptive actions with our international partners and the private sector," Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said.

"We will not hesitate to shut down bot farms, seize illegally obtained Internet domains and take the fight to our adversaries."

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