The U.S. Justice Department announced on Tuesday that it has successfully disrupted a Russian operation that employed fake social media accounts, enhanced by

artificial intelligence, to covertly spread pro-Kremlin messages within the United States and abroad.

This development comes just four months before the U.S. presidential election, which security experts believe will be a target for both hacking and covert social media influence attempts by foreign adversaries. Senior U.S. officials have publicly stated they are closely monitoring for any schemes aimed at disrupting the vote.

The Justice Department received court approval to seize two domain names and investigate nearly 1,000 social media accounts allegedly linked to the operation.

"With these actions, the Justice Department has disrupted a Russian-government backed, AI-enabled propaganda campaign using a bot farm to spread disinformation in the United States and abroad," Attorney General Merrick Garland stated.

This action marks the first time the United States has publicly accused a foreign government of using generative AI in a foreign influence operation, according to Justice Department and FBI officials. U.S. officials have expressed concern that adversaries may leverage AI systems to escalate efforts to disseminate misinformation.

Prosecutors allege that the operation was orchestrated by a private intelligence organization based in Russia, staffed by Russian intelligence officers and a senior employee of the Moscow-based, government-funded news outlet Russia Today (RT). The effort was reportedly approved and funded by the Kremlin in early 2023.

Spokespersons for the Russian embassy in Washington and RT did not respond to requests for comment.

The private organization allegedly designed a custom, AI-powered platform to create, control, and manage hundreds of fake social accounts that appeared to be real Americans, according to court documents. These accounts, now banned from the social media platform X, frequently posted pro-Kremlin content, including videos of Russian President Vladimir Putin and criticisms of the Ukrainian government.

The United States collaborated with Dutch authorities in the investigation, as the campaign was operated from a server located in the Netherlands, according to investigators. Photo by Wikimedia commons.