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Russia using bots to spread misinformation on social media, DOJ says

A U.S. Justice Department logo Associated Press/Photo by Andrew Harnik, file

Russia using bots to spread misinformation on social media, DOJ says

The U.S. Department of Justice on Tuesday said it seized two domain names that nefarious actors in Russia used to craft almost 1,000 fake accounts on the social media platform X. One of the individuals, an unnamed editor at Russian state-run news agency RT, worked with Russia’s Federal Security Service, or FSB, to create the fake accounts, the department said. Government personnel and other employees at RT then used the accounts to spread misinformation in the United States and other countries, according to the Justice Department.

What sort of alleged misinformation did these bots spread? One of the accounts in question claimed that Russia’s war in Ukraine was about founding a new world order and not about territorial conflict or achieving geopolitical balance, the Justice Department said. Another account alleged that fewer foreign fighters were serving alongside Ukrainian forces than many public estimates indicated. Another account indicated that Russia had gifted Poland, Lithuania, and Ukraine certain geographical areas after freeing them from Nazism in World War II.

How did the Justice Department discover these accounts were Russian bots? The FBI began investigating the X accounts, and the domain names used to create them, after receiving a tip from another, unidentified U.S. government agency, according to court documents. The FBI sifted through the layers of false email accounts, bitcoin payments, and disguised IP addresses to identify the individuals allegedly involved in the scheme.

How did Russia create so many bots and how did this all work? The United States, the Netherlands, and Canada released a joint statement explaining how the Russian government used an artificial intelligence software program called Meliorator to create the bots. Some of the bots passed themselves off as real users while sharing propaganda, while other bots served only to “like” misinformation shared by the original bots.

Has the U.S. government also been tracking Chinese hacking efforts? The National Security Agency, along with the Australian Signals Directorate and other agencies, on Monday issued a report on APT 40, a Chinese hacking group that has targeted companies, networks, and agencies in the United States and Australia. The group has exploited software loopholes to infiltrate widely used networks and used home office devices as operational infrastructure, the NSA said. The NSA suggested that network defenders patch all internet-exposed devices, segment their networks, and disable unused network features.

Dig deeper: Read my report in The Sift from last month about Poland’s efforts to bolster its cybersecurity infrastructure to prevent Russian hacking attempts.

Josh Schumacher

Josh is a breaking news reporter for WORLD. He’s a graduate of World Journalism Institute and Patrick Henry College.

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