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U.S. shuts down Russian AI-powered disinformation bot farm

The United States Department of Justice announced that it has disrupted a Russian sponsored AI-powered social media campaign used to spread disinformation across the internet.

The Justice Department said it had collaborated with international partners in Canada and the Netherlands to seize two internet addresses (domains) used to register fake email addresses.

The fake email addresses were then used to set up bot accounts, which are essentially automated social media profiles.

The investigation identified 968 accounts on X associated with what is known as a bot farm – the term used to describe a network of internet-connected programmes designed to perform automated tasks.

 The accounts were created between June 2022 and March 2024 using emails with domain names “” and “” from a U.S.-based provider.

Example of bot accounts username, emails and registration dates. (Source: DoJ)

The DoJ stated that the identified bot accounts were voluntarily suspended by X.

Court documents revealed that the operation was organised in 2022 by an unnamed individual who worked as editor-in-chief at Russia Today (RT), a state owned news organisation.

The project was later taken over by a private intelligence organisation linked to Russia’s FSB security service.

RT affiliates used Meliorator, an AI software, to create the false personas for use on X, which were made to look like they belong to people in America.

The joint cyber security advisory of this investigation stated: “Meliorator was designed to be used on social media networks to create “authentic” appearing personas en masse, allowing for the propagation of disinformation, which could assist Russia in exacerbating discord and trying to alter public opinion as part of information operations. The accounts were then used to promote messages that supported the Russian government.”

To avoid detection, the bots are said to have been created for one of three roles:

  • The first would be profiles with a photo, cover photo, name, location, and a small biography. These bots spread a lot of information and are very active. AI technologies create their photos and details using a tool called Faker.
  • The second has minimal information, usually just a username and little content, and is mainly used to “like” shared information.
  • The third were created using real people’s data stolen from the web, they look the most authentic, have a lot of activity and followers, and used to amplify disinformation from other bots and even real accounts.

One bot account, presented as a resident of Minneapolis shared a video of President Putin saying that specific regions of Poland, Ukraine, and Lithuania were “gifts” to these countries from the Russian forces that freed them from Nazi occupation during World War II.

Example of Russian-government narratives that the bot farm posted on X in November 2023.

Another bot account listed as being a U.S. resident of a city listed as “Gresham,” posted a video of President Putin claiming that the war in Ukraine is not a territorial conflict or a matter of geopolitical balance, but rather the “principles on which the New World Order will be based.”

Benjamin Strick, Investigations Director at the Centre for Information Resilience, identified that one of the accounts mentioned in the affidavit did not use one of two domains seized. On the day of the DoJ announcement, Strick found that the account was still available. X is now showing this account as “temporarily restricted.”

(Source: X/@BenDoBrown)

Although the activity was only identified on X, the investigation found that there was intention to extend the operation to other platforms.

Christopher Wray, FBI Director, said: “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 favourable to the Russian government. The FBI is committed to working with our partners and deploying joint, sequenced operations to strategically disrupt our most dangerous adversaries and their use of cutting-edge technology for nefarious purposes.”

Val Dockrell is a London-based Senior Investigator and Open Source Intelligence (“OSINT”) specialist who has led in-depth investigations in multiple jurisdictions around the world. She also speaks several languages and is a member of the Fraud Women’s Network. Her X (formerly Twitter) handle is @ValDockrell.