US Authorities Take Down AI-Powered Russian Bot Farm Spreading Disinformation

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US authorities and their allies have taken down a sophisticated Russian bot farm, comprising nearly 1,000 artificial intelligence-powered accounts, which spread disinformation and pro-Russian propaganda on X. The scheme was made possible by software developed by RT‘s digital media department, led by the deputy editor-in-chief in 2022, and approved and funded by an officer at Russia’s Federal Security Service.

The bot farm used a tool called “Meliorator” to create hundreds of authentic-looking social media personas, generate text messages, images, and mirror disinformation from other bot personas. Authorities have seized two domains used to create email addresses necessary to sign up for accounts on X, which served as the home for the bots.

The Justice Department is still searching for the remaining 968 accounts used by the Russian actors to disseminate false information. X has shared information on the identified accounts and has suspended them. The bots were able to evade X’s safeguards by copying and pasting OTPs from their email accounts to log in.

The bot farm’s activities violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and federal money laundering laws in the US. Many profiles created by the tool impersonated Americans, using American-sounding names and setting their locations on X to various places in the US. The profiles used headshots against gray backgrounds as their profile photos, indicating they were created using AI.

The bot farm’s content included videos of Russian President Vladimir Putin justifying Russia’s actions in Ukraine and stating that the war is not about territorial conflict but about “principles on which the New World Order will be based.” The posts were liked and reposted by other bots in the network.

The authorities’ analysis of the Meliorator software revealed plans to expand the bot farm to other platforms. Foreign actors have been using social media to spread political disinformation for years, but the addition of AI to their arsenal has made their operations more sophisticated. In May, OpenAI dismantled five covert influence operations originating from Russia, China, Israel, and Iran that used its models to influence political outcomes.

FBI Director Christopher Wray stated, “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 FBI is committed to working with partners to disrupt the use of cutting-edge technology for nefarious purposes.

RT, the Russian state-controlled media outlet, responded to the allegations by simply saying, “Farming is a beloved pastime for millions of Russians.”

Mariella Moon
Mariella Moon
Contributing Reporter. Mariella covers everything from consumer technology and video games to strange little robots that could operate on the human body from the inside one day. She has a special affinity for space, its technologies and its mysteries, though, and has interviewed astronauts in the past. Her work has previously appeared in other publications, including Popular Science, Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, USA Today and PCMag.

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