It seems Nigerian and Ghanaian scammers are no longer content with romance fraud: they're getting involved with election interference as well.Show Full Article
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According to both Facebook and Twitter, Russia’s infamous Internet Research Agency (IRA) is now outsourcing its disinformation campaigns to Africa.
In Ghana and Nigeria, dozens of accounts have been posting about black history, civil rights and LGBTQ issues, as well as celebrity gossip; and while they haven't posted explicitly about the 2020 presidential election, the chances are that's exactly what they've been gearing up for.
In the past, the IRA has created innocuous-seeming pages that, once they've recruited enough followers, start posting political material.
"This network was in the early stages of building an audience," says Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook's head of security policy in a blog post.
"We’re taking down these pages and accounts because this activity was linked to individuals associated with the IRA, an entity we had previously banned from Facebook. They also used fake accounts and coordinated with one another and to mislead people about what they were doing. That behavior was the basis for our action, not the content they posted."
According to CNN, which was involved in Facebook's investigation, the Ghanaian operation consisted of 16 people in a house in Accra, rented under the name Eliminating Barriers for the Liberation of Africa (EBLA).
The activity amounts to 49 Facebook accounts, 69 pages and 85 accounts on Instagram. Around 13,500 accounts followed one or more of these pages, with around 265,000 following one or more of the Instagram accounts.
Facebook says it's identified around $379 in spending for ads on Facebook and Instagram - but says its systems prevented the network from running political ads in the US.
Twitter, meanwhile, says it's removed a number of accounts, with 68,000 followers in total.
"In collaboration with law enforcement, industry peers, journalists, and expert researchers, we recently suspended a small network of accounts largely tweeting in English and that presented themselves as based in the United States," says the safety team.
"These 71 removed 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."
It's encouraging that Facebook's detection systems largely prevented the fake accounts from placing political ads. However, the companies could still have been quicker to respond, with the pages and accounts running for months before their removal.
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