February 13, 2023

AI Will Watch You


AI Will Watch You
Server room of BalticServers
BalticServers, Wikimedia Commons

Russian authorities plan to use artificial intelligence to search for "prohibited information" and "points of information tension" on the Russian-language internet (aka RuNet).

Journalists at Vazhnye Istoriyi discovered the plans courtesy of Belorussian hackers's attack on the Russian Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology, and Mass Media and a subsequent leak of over two million internal documents from the service.

According to Vazhnye Istoriyi, the Russian authorities are planning an operation code-named "Vepr" (Wild Boar), which will use AI technology to analyze publications on the Russian-language internet, rooting out negative information about the Russian president, top officials of state and governmental entities, and content that can "discredit traditional values," "destabilize the socio-political situation," "manipulate public opinion," or "polarize society."

Journalists discovered a list of over a hundred topics that the system may track, including "LGBT propaganda," critics of the environmental situation in Russia, and mentions of independent media like The Project, Radio Liberty, or The Insider. According to Mediazona, the list of topics also includes drug addiction and "offensive art actions."

The Vepr program is to launch by the end of 2024, but the war in Ukraine may be accelerating plans: Vazhnyye Istorii found a letter from a Russian official who said it is difficult to predict the exact deadlines, due to sanctions and a lack of personnel. 

In 2022, hundreds of thousands of IT specialists left Russia. And, due to the difficult economic situation and increasing international isolation, ​​Russian authorities have reduced AI development funding.

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