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US Officials Disrupt Russian AI-Powered Disinformation Operation on X 

US officials have revealed the shutdown of automated X accounts posing as Americans to spread pro-Russia narratives, especially about Ukraine.

US officials has announced that they have dismantled an AI-powered information operation originating from Russia, involving nearly 1,000 fake accounts on X (formerly Twitter) designed to spread pro-Russia narratives.

The automated accounts, or “bots,” impersonated Americans to propagate pro-Russia stories, particularly about the war in Ukraine. 

The US Justice Department revealed the operation in court documents made public on Tuesday, attributing its creation to a deputy editor at Kremlin-owned RT, formerly Russia Today.

RT, which broadcasts in English and several other languages, enjoys greater popularity on social media than on conventional television. 

The Justice Department has seized two websites used to generate emails for the bot accounts and ordered X to provide information on 968 suspected bot accounts.

According to the documents, the operation used artificial intelligence to create the accounts and disseminate pro-Russian narratives. 

FBI Director Christopher Wray described the takedown as a first in disrupting a Russian-sponsored, AI-enhanced social media bot farm.

“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,” Wray stated.

The accounts have since been deleted by X, and screenshots shared by the FBI indicated they had very few followers. The bot farm was reportedly the brainchild of an RT deputy editor-in-chief seeking new distribution methods. RT America was shut down in 2022 after several major US cable providers dropped it following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The operation’s development involved another RT employee and later a Russian intelligence officer, aiming to spread misinformation and sow discord in the United States, according to the Justice Department.

Anna Belkina, RT’s deputy editor-in-chief, responded to the BBC via email, humorously distancing herself from the allegations: “I’m more than happy to tend to my farm (dacha) – made up mostly of tomatoes and strawberries, but sadly without any help from the FSB,” referring to the Russian security service.

While no criminal charges have been announced, the Justice Department’s investigation is ongoing. Nina Jankowicz, head of the American Sunlight Project, a non-profit combating disinformation, remarked on the operation’s use of AI to create fake accounts, which streamlined a previously time-consuming task.

“This used to be one of the more time-consuming parts of their work; now it has been made much smoother by the technologies that abetted this operation,” Jankowicz noted, adding that the operation was thwarted before gaining significant traction.

“Artificial intelligence is now clearly part of the disinformation arsenal,” she said.

The BBC has reached out to X and the Russian Foreign Ministry for comments. 

A recent investigation also uncovered a separate attempt to bolster a Russia-based disinformation network using AI-generated fake news sites.

Source: BBC

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