US officials shut down Russian bot farm used to spread disinformation on X

Photo: Etienne Laurent / EPA-EFE

Photo: Etienne Laurent / EPA-EFE

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) and the FBI have shut down a covert Russian bot farm that had spread across social media, the DOJ announced in a press release on Tuesday.

According to the DOJ, state-controlled Russian broadcaster RT and the Federal Security Service (FSB) developed a bot farm on X that created fake accounts to “disseminate misinformation” and “sow discord in the US and elsewhere”.

In a joint effort with the FBI, alongside Canadian and Dutch intelligence agencies, the DOJ seized two domain names and 968 accounts on X.

“The Department of Justice disrupted a Russian government-backed propaganda campaign using artificial intelligence,” US Attorney General Merrick Garland said. The attorney general’s statement added that Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Ukraine and Israel were also targets of the bot attacks.

The accounts were allegedly created using AI that generated photos, videos and text that was posted to X. The network of bots was controlled by two fake domain names that were able to register fake email accounts for the bots online. Many of the posts contained pro-Kremlin content, propagating misinformation aimed at bolstering support for Putin and the war in Ukraine.

The DOJ report detailed how a former “deputy editor-in-chief at RT” collaborated with an FSB officer to coordinate resources and engineer the bot farm. Although the report didn’t name either individual, it noted that the FSB officer directed RT to release specific propaganda messages to meet “Russian government objectives”.

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