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Microsoft Detects Russian Influence Campaigns Targeting US Election

Microsoft has revealed the detection of Russian online campaigns aimed at influencing the upcoming US presidential election over the past 45 days, albeit at a slower pace compared to previous election cycles. These activities, linked to Russia, involve disseminating divisive content, particularly criticizing American support for Ukraine in its conflict with Russia, and are specifically targeted at US audiences. According to the tech giant’s researchers, there has been a surge in messaging regarding Ukraine across traditional media and social platforms, involving at least 70 Russia-affiliated activity sets.

The most prominent of these campaigns reportedly originates from Russia’s Presidential Administration, while another focuses on spreading disinformation across multiple languages. This strategy involves initially posting content on video channels, portraying itself as originating from a whistle-blower or citizen journalist. Subsequently, the disinformation is amplified through a network of websites such as DC Weekly and Miami Chronicle. Microsoft highlighted the necessity for US audiences to ascertain the origins of such content before sharing or reposting it.

Furthermore, Microsoft has identified an increase in hacking activities by a Russian group known as Star Blizzard (or Cold River), which is targeting Western think tanks. This hacking campaign, now focusing on US political figures and policy circles, potentially serves Kremlin objectives leading up to the November elections. Despite concerns regarding the malicious use of AI, Microsoft emphasized that simpler digital forgeries, particularly audio manipulations, are more prevalent than deepfakes and can significantly impact audiences.

While acknowledging the utilization of generative AI-enabled content by nation states, Microsoft researchers noted that such content rarely achieves substantial reach on social media platforms. Basic manipulations, rather than complex AI techniques, are likely to have the most significant impact on influencing public perception. Microsoft’s findings underscore ongoing concerns about foreign interference and disinformation campaigns targeting the US electoral process.

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