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Justice Department Uncovers Russian Bot Network on X

An illustration depicting a network of social media bots connected to a central hub, symbolizing the Russian-operated accounts on X. The background features digital networks and artificial intelligence elements, highlighting the use of AI in creating these accounts

Justice Department Uncovers Russian Bot Network on X

The Justice Department has revealed and dismantled a Russian propaganda network consisting of nearly 1,000 accounts on the social media platform X. These accounts, posing as Americans—including a bitcoin investor in Minneapolis—were actually controlled by Russian operatives with Kremlin approval and financial backing.

Artificial Intelligence in Action

According to court affidavits and a news release from the Justice Department, the operatives used artificial intelligence to create fictitious accounts, which made it easier to produce images and generate text. Attorney General Merrick Garland described the network as a bot farm aimed at spreading disinformation in the U.S. and abroad, particularly about Russia’s claims to Ukraine.

Statement from Attorney General Merrick Garland

“As the Russian government continues to wage its brutal war in Ukraine and threatens democracies around the world, the Justice Department will continue to deploy all of our legal authorities to counter Russian aggression and protect the American people,” Garland stated.

Effectiveness and Ongoing Threats

The Justice Department did not specify the success of the bot network's messaging efforts, but noted that similar propaganda attempts have struggled to gain traction in recent years. However, experts warn that disinformation remains a major threat, especially with the upcoming U.S. election and the combination of advanced technology, new tactics, and reduced platform moderation making social media vulnerable to foreign attacks.

Seizing and Investigating

The department seized two websites used to issue emails for the bot accounts and ordered X to provide information on 968 accounts identified as bots. These accounts have now been deleted, and screenshots shared by FBI investigators show they had very few followers.

Inside the Bot Farm Operation

Court documents revealed that the bot farm was orchestrated by a deputy editor at Kremlin-owned RT (formerly Russia Today). Following the shutdown of RT America after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022, another RT employee developed the network, and a Russian intelligence officer later joined the effort to spread misinformation in the U.S.

Ongoing Investigation

No criminal charges have been made public, but the Justice Department's investigation is ongoing. X, owned by Elon Musk, identified and suspended many bot accounts before the Justice Department's action and has since removed the rest voluntarily, earning commendation for its cooperation.

Response from Involved Parties

The Russian Embassy in Washington and X did not immediately respond to requests for comment.