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HomeTechnologyU.S., allies take down Russian ‘bot farm’ spreading propaganda with AI

U.S., allies take down Russian ‘bot farm’ spreading propaganda with AI

The United States and a number of its allies said on Tuesday they had taken control of a sophisticated Russian propaganda mill that used artificial intelligence to run nearly a thousand secret accounts on the social network X.

Although governments have turned to artificial intelligence to spread messages more broadly and credibly in the past year, the move is unusual because Western intelligence agencies traced it to an officer in the Russian FSB intelligence force and a former senior editor at the state-controlled publication RT (formerly called Russia Today), court documents made clear.

in a surprisingly wide joint ConsultancyAgencies in the United States, the Netherlands and Canada identified various software programs used to manage the network, including a program called Meliorator, which created fictitious users known as “spirits” in various countries. The FBI won the case in court Order This helped it seize two web domains that the operation had used to register the email addresses behind the accounts.

“Today’s action is the first to disrupt a Russian-sponsored generative AI-enhanced social media bot farm,” FBI Director Christopher A. Wray said in a statement. statement“Russia intended to use this bot farm to spread AI-generated foreign disinformation, amplifying its AI-assisted work to undermine our partners in Ukraine and influence geopolitical narratives favorable to the Russian government.”

Automated accounts with more detailed biographies posted original content, while a supporting cast of more generic accounts liked and reshared those posts. Officials did not answer questions about how many real users saw the posts and whether anyone spread the messages further, so it's unclear how effective the campaign was.

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The system circumvented one of X's techniques for verifying users' authenticity by automatically copying one-time passcodes sent to registered email addresses. References to Facebook and Instagram in the program code indicated that the operation was intended to expand to those platforms, officials said.

The agencies recommended that social media companies improve their methods for secretly catching automated behavior.

X complied with the court order Order The FBI was asked for information about the accounts, then deleted them. The company did not respond to questions from The Washington Post.

The Justice Department thanked X for its cooperation during the investigation, a sign of improved communication between the government and big social media companies since the Supreme Court upheld officials’ right to flag foreign influence operations.

John Scott-Railton, a researcher at Canadian nonprofit Citizen Lab, said the two countries have provided detailed information about the botnet's inner workings, which will help other investigators and companies know what to look for.

“They don't think this problem is going anywhere, so they're sharing it widely,” Scott-Railton said.

He said the documents show that large AI language models have helped Russian propagandists scale up their operations and translate data. It also helps them evade detection software that looks for repeated use of the same Internet Protocol addresses and other identifiers.

But many other systems are already working, and they will get better as they adapt to what they detect and what's happening, Scott-Railton said. “This is not even the tip of the iceberg,” he said. “This is just the drop of the iceberg.”



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