Russian cyber disinformation efforts identified by US intelligence agencies during the 2016 election cycle have resurfaced, this time with Russia-backed troll farms in Ghana and Nigeria.
A CNN investigation published on Thursday evening pointed out that Russia has outsourced some of the coordinated misleading campaigns to individuals in the West African countries.
This time the efforts are more targeted although it would seem trolls are focused on the same fault lines they did in 2016: racial issues.
The extensive report noted that these trolls open social media accounts in the name of “promoting black empowerment” as well as making suggestions toward hostility against white Americans.
@Africamustwake, one of the accounts, reportedly tweeted at one time: “YOU POLICE BEEN KILLING BLACKS SINCE YA RAGGEDY MOMMAS GAVE BIRTH TO U. HAPPY MLK DAY TO U HYPOCRITES.”
Over 200 accounts are thought to have been created by the trolls in Ghana. A majority of these accounts were made in the second half of 2019.
Prior to and after the US elections of 2016, intelligence services reported that concerted efforts were made by Russia to exploit weaknesses in the American social fabric.
Partisan and racial tensions were inflamed by internet trolls employed in a now-infamous building in St.Petersburg, Russia. They also shared concocted news reports and created echo-chambers.
Although it was also said Russia’s bet was for Donald Trump to win the elections of 2016, trolls fed both liberal and conservative prejudices.
The idea of a disunited America, it seems, was the long game for Russia. The attempts were also replicated in elections in the European Union.
Twitter and Facebook came under fire from publics across the world but much critically from US lawmakers. The idea of fake news and how it was spread was put under the microscope.
The two giant social media companies were forced to purge tens of thousands of accounts on their platforms.
In the revelations on troll farms in Ghana and Nigeria, CNN quoted a Twitter statement: “Most (of the troll accounts) were tweeting in English and presented themselves as based in the United States…The accounts — operating out of Ghana and Nigeria and which we can reliably associate with Russia — attempted to sow discord by engaging in conversations about social issues, like race and civil rights.”
Facebook also says while over 13,000 followed “one or more of the Ghana accounts around 263,200 people followed one or more of Instagram accounts.”
About 65% of the followership was in the United States.
Russian troll farm efforts have been connected to Yevgeny Prigozhin, a man close to President Vladimir Putin. Prigozhin’s Internet Research Agency (IRA) is believed to have sponsored the efforts in Ghana, through Seth Wiredu, a Ghanaian who has been based in Russia for years.
Wiredu at a point went with the alias Mr. Amara and claimed he was from South Africa. Wiredu is said to have put together a group of people who vigorously posted on social media.
The trolls were heavily rewarded based on how many followers they could gain and the reach of their posts.
But Wiredu, who was covertly recorded in an interrogation with the CNN, denies knowledge of IRA disinformation campaigns.