US Justice Department says it disrupted Russian social media influence operation



On Tuesday, the U.S. Justice Department announced it had disrupted a Russian operation that employed fake social media accounts, enhanced by artificial intelligence, to covertly disseminate pro-Kremlin messages both in the United States and internationally.

This revelation comes just four months before the U.S. presidential election, a period during which security experts widely anticipate attempts at hacking and covert social media influence by foreign adversaries. Senior U.S. officials have publicly stated they are vigilant for any schemes aimed at disrupting the electoral process.

The Justice Department obtained court approval to seize two domain names and search nearly 1,000 social media accounts allegedly linked to the operation. Attorney General Merrick Garland stated, “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.”

According to officials from the Justice Department and the FBI, this marks the first instance in which the United States has publicly accused a foreign government of using generative AI in a foreign influence operation. U.S. authorities have cautioned that adversaries might leverage the growing capabilities of AI systems to amplify efforts to spread misinformation.

Prosecutors allege that the operation was orchestrated through a private intelligence organization based in Russia, staffed by Russian intelligence officers and a senior employee of the Moscow-based, government-funded news outlet Russia Today (RT). The Kremlin is said to have approved and funded the effort in early 2023.

Requests for comment from the Russian embassy in Washington and RT went unanswered. Court documents reveal that this private organization developed a custom AI-powered platform to create, control, and manage hundreds of fake social accounts designed to resemble real Americans.

These accounts on the social media platform X, which have since been banned, frequently posted pro-Kremlin talking points, including videos of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and criticized the Ukrainian government.

Investigators noted that the campaign was operated from a server in the Netherlands, with the United States collaborating with Dutch authorities on the investigation.