“I react with pleasure” was Prigozhin’s response to claims he founded the agency.
His troll farm employed people to create thousands of accounts posing as Americans in order to create the impression of support for Donald Trump and divisive policies. This was at a time when Russia’s motivation for doing so was simply to sow chaos and discord amongst its enemies, with no real reason other than it could.
Fast forward seven years, and Russia and its leader, Vladimir Putin, are in a different place. He is backed into a corner after the invasion of Ukraine, and his only way out, his only way to win the war, is for the US to withdraw its support for Ukraine. And his best bet of that happening is a second Trump term. Now, he has a very personal interest in swaying the outcome of the election.
Former troll farm employees have spoken of how these operations were run, “one minute you needed to be a redneck from Kentucky, and then later you had to be some kind of white dude from Minnesota. … And then in 15 minutes, you need to be from New York”. What if you had a tool that could adopt all these personalities and more, many times over? With the rise of generative AI, the spreading of disinformation may reach new levels. The possibilities are endless.
This is at a time when Twitter, sorry X, is rife with mis and disinformation. Elon Musk’s cuts to staff and butchering of the verification system mean false claims are spreading like wildfire. Posts from people claiming to be journalists from respected media outlets are gaining hundreds of thousands of impressions before it’s pointed out they are pretending to be so, or their post attracts a community note. Many fake claims are being amplified because the account pays for a blue tick.
Then, there is the added complication of AI-generated images. You don’t only have to worry about what you read but also what you see. Already in the Republican primaries, Ron de Santis has used fake AI generated images of Donald Trump in a campaign video. The disinformation isn’t limited to foreign actors; it’s coming from the campaigns themselves, too.
By James Donald
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