DOJ disrupts Russian 'bot farm' used to spread disinformation

Federal law enforcement shut down a Russian disinformation campaign backed by the Kremlin and operated by state-controlled media, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Tuesday.

The DOJ said a “bot farm” network of nearly 1,000 accounts on the social media platform X used artificial intelligence (AI) to spread disinformation favorable to the Russian government.

“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.”

The network was orchestrated by a Russian individual who previously worked as the editor-in-chief of RT, the Russian state-controlled media outlet that has a notable presence in the U.S., the Justice Department said.

“Since at least 2022, RT leadership sought the development of alternative means for distributing information beyond RT’s standard television news broadcasts,” the DOJ said in a statement. “In response, Individual A led the development of software that was able to create and to operate a social media bot farm.”

The FSB, the Russian intelligence service, also had access to the network, the DOJ said. Fake accounts on the network would pose as Americans and publish statements favorable to Russian political goals.

While the network was only operating on X, a joint cybersecurity advisory issued by U.S., Dutch and Canadian intelligence agencies said the Russians intended to expand operations to other social media platforms.

The cybersecurity advisory recommends social media platforms to better police bot networks and stay vigilant to the presence of foreign intelligence operations, and it provides specific technical details of the network.

“We support all civic engagement, civil dialogue, and a robust exchange of ideas,” Gary Restaino, a federal prosecutor, said in a statement. “But those ideas should be generated by Americans, for Americans. The disruption announced today protects us from those who use unlawful means to seek to mislead our citizens and our communities.”

The Hill has reached out to X for comment.

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