Russia using AI in Olympics disinformation campaigns: Microsoft

Russian influence actors are using artificial intelligence (AI) in disinformation campaigns targeting the 2024 Paris Olympics, according to a new report from the Microsoft Threat Analysis Center.

Since last June, Russian actors have sought to denigrate the reputation of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and sow fears about violence at the upcoming Olympic Games with fake videos, images and articles, the report found.

One Russian influence actor, known as Storm-1679, created a fake Netflix documentary using AI-generated audio mimicking the voice of actor Tom Cruise that criticized IOC leadership.

The “Olympics Has Fallen” video — which also spoofed Netflix’s intro and corporate branding, featured bogus reviews and utilized “slick” computer-generated special effects — suggested its creators “committed considerable time to the project and demonstrated more skill than most influence campaigns we observe,” according to the report.

Storm-1679 has also produced several videos posing as reliable news sources, such as the Brussels-based outlet Euro News and the French broadcaster France24, falsely claiming Parisians and spectators are concerned about violence at the games.

It similarly created fake videos purporting to be from the CIA and a French intelligence agency warning people to stay away from Paris during the games due to a heightened risk of terrorism.

Amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, the group has also posted images — which Microsoft found were likely digitally generated — of graffiti in Paris threatening violence against Israelis attending the Olympics, referencing the attack on the Israeli Olympic team at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

Another video purportedly created a Turkish ultranationalist group that was amplified by Russian bot accounts similarly referenced the 1972 Munich attacks and hinted at similar attacks at the upcoming games.

“Microsoft does not presently have enough information to attribute the video to a specific actor, but its heavy amplification by pro-Russian bot accounts suggests the video may be another operation in the broader Olympics campaign,” the report noted.

Other Russian influence actors, such as Storm-1099, have also launched campaigns targeting the Paris Olympics, including spoofing French media outlets with fake articles criticizing French President Emmanuel Macron.

The disinformation campaigns come after Russian athletes were barred from competing under the Russian flag due to the war in Ukraine. Russian athletes can compete in the 2024 Olympics as individual neutral athletes but must be vetted to ensure they have not actively supported the war.

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