FBI Shuts Down Massive Russian AI-Driven Bot Farm on X

The United States Department of Justice has seized two domains linked to Russia’s wartime disinformation campaign that was used to spread misinformation and fake news on social media.

FBI officials said the AI-powered information operation out of Russia included nearly 1,000 accounts on X (formerly Twitter) pretending to be Americans.

The investigation uncovered a Russian bot farm that used artificial intelligence to create fake social media profiles masquerading as Americans to post support for Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine.

The 968 social media accounts, allegedly connected to Russian State TV RT, were “used by Russian actors to create an AI-enhanced social media bot farm that spread disinformation in the United States and abroad,” officials said.

Twitter’s official profile on a smartphone screen shows the white letter X on a black background.

Monika Skolimowska/DPA

Russia has routinely weaponized social media to spread disinformation in an attempt to sow discord within Western democracies.

In court documents made public Tuesday, the DOJ said a deputy editor at Kremlin-owned RT was the mastermind behind the plot to spread false information.

“With these actions, the Justice Department has disrupted a Russian-government-backed, AI-enabled propaganda campaign to use a bot farm to spread disinformation in the United States and abroad,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland.

“As the Russian government continues to wage its brutal war in Ukraine and threatens democracies around the world, the Justice Department will continue to deploy all of our legal authorities to counter Russian aggression and protect the American people”, he added.

Merrick Garland speaks during a news conference
Merrick Garland speaks during a news conference at the Department of Justice headquarters in Washington, Thursday, June 27, 2024.

Jose Luis Magana/AP

“Today’s action demonstrates that the Justice Department and our partners will not tolerate Russian government actors and their agents deploying AI to sow disinformation and fuel division among Americans,” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco.

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

“Today’s actions represent a first in disrupting a Russian-sponsored, Generative AI-enhanced social media bot farm,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray.

“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,” he said in a statement.

Putin attends press conference with Orban
Putin attends a joint news conference with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP

Elena Simperl, professor of computer science at King’s College London told Newsweek: “The biggest danger from all this is that people stop believe or trusting anyone, any institution and that leads to disengagement from democratic or collective decision making.”

RT runs TV channels in English and several other languages, but it appears much more popular on social media than on broadcast television.

The social media bot farm used elements of AI to create fictitious social media profiles—often purporting to belong to individuals in the United States which the operators then used to promote pro-Russian propaganda, according to affidavits unsealed on Tuesday, July 9.

The FBI worked alongside international partners Canada and the Netherlands in their cyber security investigation to shut down the AI-powered Russian bots.

X Corp. voluntarily suspended the bot accounts identified in the court documents for terms of service violations.

Newsweek has reached out to X for comment.

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