WASHINGTON (NEWSnet/AP) — A Russian propaganda campaign involving fictitious social media profiles, backed by the Kremlin and boosted by artificial intelligence, has been disrupted, the Justice Department said Tuesday.

U.S. officials described the internet operation as part of an ongoing effort to sow discord in the U.S. through the creation of fictitious social media profiles that seem to belong to Americans but are actually designed to advance the aims of the Russian government.

The investigation resulted in the seizure of two domain names and the search of 968 social media accounts, the announcement said.

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

U.S. officials said the scheme was organized in 2022 after a senior editor at RT, a Russian-state-funded media organization that has registered with the Justice Department as a foreign agent, helped develop technology for a so-called social media bot farm.

It received the support and financial approval of the Kremlin, with an officer of Russia’s Federal Security Service — or FSB — leading a private intelligence organization that promoted disinformation on social media through a network of fake accounts.

The RT press office did not respond directly to a question about the allegations.

In conjunction with the domain seizures and search warrant announcement, the FBI and the Cyber National Mission Force, in partnership with Canadian Centre for Cyber Security, the Netherlands General Intelligence and Security Service, Netherlands Military Intelligence and Security Service, and Netherlands Police released a joint cybersecurity advisory detailing the technology behind the social media bot farm, including details regarding how the bot farm’s creators leveraged their bespoke AI system in furtherance of the scheme. The intention of the advisory was help social media platforms and researchers to identify and prevent further use of that service.

In addition, X Corp. (formerly, Twitter) voluntarily suspended the remaining bot accounts identified in the court documents for terms of service violations.

The disruption of the bot farm comes after U.S. officials raised alarms about the potential for AI technology directed to impact this year’s elections. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Russians launched a huge social media trolling campaign aimed in part at helping Republican Donald Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Among the recent campaign's fake posts, according to the Justice Department, was a video that was posted by someone portrayed as a resident of Minneapolis, Minnesota, and involved Russian President Vladimir Putin saying that areas of Ukraine, Poland and Lithuania were “gifts” to those countries from liberating Russian forces during World War II.

In another instance, the Justice Department said, someone posing as a U.S. constituent responded to a federal candidate’s social media posts about the war in Ukraine with a video of Putin justifying Russia’s actions.

The advisory said that as of last June, the software — known as Meliorator — only worked on X; but that its functionality probably could be expanded to other social media networks.

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