DOJ seizes social media ‘bot farm’ operated by Russian government

FILE-The Department of Justice seal on a podium in Washington, D.C. in 2021. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The Department of Justice nabbed a social media "bot farm" run by the Russian government used to spread misinformation in the U.S. and other countries. 

Agency officials said in a release Tuesday that 968 fake social media accounts were seized in the operation. 

The social media bot farm used elements of artifical intelligence to manufacture fake social media profiles claiming to belong to people in the U.S., which the operators of the bots used to promote messages supporting Russian government plans. 

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Officials said the plot was organized in 2022 by a senior editor at RT, a Russian-state-funded media organization that has registered with the Justice Department as a foreign agent. 

RT leadership wanted to create other options for disseminating information beyond its television news broadcasts.

The media outlet gained the support and financial approval of the Kremlin, with an officer of Russia's Federal Security Service leading a private intelligence organization that promoted disinformation through social media, the DOJ noted. 

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Citing court documents, the Justice Department noted that a bot farm is an enhanced software package that allows for the creation of false personas on social media platforms. 

The DOJ posted several examples of the fake messages produced by the bot farms between October and November of 2023. 

One of the fake messages created by the individuals behind the bot farms featured Russian government messages posted on X, formerly Twitter, in 2023 including a video of Russian President Vladimir Putin justifying the country’s actions in Ukraine. 

To register the fictitious social media accounts, the DOJ noted that social media bot farms rely on private email servers, which relied on the two domain names seized by the FBI.  According to the DOJ, a person who controls an internet domain can create email accounts using the domain. 

This story was reported from Washington, D.C.