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By Smartencyclopedia & Agencies

Washington, D.C. – US officials have dismantled an AI-powered information operation run from Russia, which involved nearly 1,000 accounts pretending to be Americans on the social media platform X. The operation aimed to spread pro-Russian narratives, particularly about the war in Ukraine.

In court documents made public on Tuesday, the US Justice Department revealed that the scheme was orchestrated by a deputy editor at Kremlin-owned RT, formerly known as Russia Today. RT, which broadcasts in multiple languages, has a significant online presence despite its limited viewership on traditional television.

The Justice Department seized two websites used to manage emails for the bot accounts and ordered X to provide information on 968 accounts identified as bots. These accounts, created using artificial intelligence, were disseminating pro-Russian storylines.

“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,” Mr. Wray added.

The accounts have since been deleted by X, and screenshots shared by FBI investigators showed that these accounts had very few followers. The court documents described the “bot farm” as the brainchild of an RT deputy editor-in-chief seeking innovative ways to distribute stories. RT America ceased operations after several major US cable TV providers dropped it following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

According to the documents, another RT employee initially developed the network, which was later joined by a Russian intelligence officer. The Justice Department described this collaboration as an attempt “to sow discord in the United States by spreading misinformation.”

While no criminal charges have been announced, the Justice Department emphasized that the investigation is ongoing.

Nina Jankowicz, head of the American Sunlight Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to combating disinformation, remarked that it was unsurprising for a Russia-linked operation to utilize AI for creating fake accounts. “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,” she said, noting that the operation was thwarted before it gained significant traction. “Artificial intelligence is now clearly part of the disinformation arsenal,” Ms. Jankowicz added.

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

A recent BBC investigation revealed another effort to support a Russia-based disinformation network through the use of fake news sites populated with AI-rewritten stories. This underscores the growing role of artificial intelligence in modern disinformation campaigns.

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