Facebook and Twitter Delete Russian Troll Farms based in Ghana for Election Interference
Evidence of Ongoing Disinformation Campaign
Four years ago, Russia played an illegal hand in deciding the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election, using social media to spread misinformation, disenfranchise voters, and contribute to the Trump campaign in ways that reaped obvious results. Following the election, social media and tech moguls behind companies like Facebook, Twitter, Google, and more have been called into question, pressed by politicians to provide greater cyber security and proactively catch instances of foreign powers trying to infiltrate American politics.
While actual amendments made by these social media companies have appeared lackluster and hollow—changes in leadership, marketing ploys, logo changes, etc.—Facebook and Twitter did recently find and suspend several accounts that were linked to Russian operations.
Feb 26, 2020: Twitter suspends all accounts associated with EBLA office in Ghana– CNN
These accounts, ran by people from Ghana, were targeting African/Black American constituents, making radical posts about liberation, identity, and rebellion. Although the posts did not show preference for any specific candidate, they were unambiguously voicing a political message and attempting to influence the American populace at this integral time.
The Ghanaian-based group that ran these accounts was dubbed EBLA online. Across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, the group had over 150 pages and accounts, and over a quarter-million followers. It also had a false headquarters location of Charleston, South Carolina to appear authentically American.
March 12, 2020:Facebook removes 49 accounts, 69 pages and 85 Instagram accounts associated with the troll farm. Twitter removes 72 EBLA accounts.– CNN estimate based on multi-month investigation
Obvious Inauthentic Behavior Masked by Human Trolls
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Tech company personnel, AI security software, and a few active users noticed the conspicuous aspects of these page’s posts and flagged them. Further analysis eventually ousted them as inauthentic. Oddly enough, however, the investigation revealed that the posts were not created by bots (which is typical for such scams), but by actual people in Ghana. Thus, it took real digging along with some cross references with Russia’s previous posts to realize that EBLA was tied up and led by Russian operations. The Ghanaian representatives were essentially a ploy, an extra layer of protection for Russia to carry out its sneaky offenses
In the end, EBLA got the boot from social media, kicked off of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. While EBLA never endorsed or even mentioned a 2020 candidate, this seemed like an appropriate precaution on the social networks’ behalves, for the foreign accounts were clearly attempting to sway the American political climate.
Ever since its social media exile, EBLA has gone silent and reporters have been unable to reach anyone involved in with the suspicious organization. In the digital age, disappearing becomes quite easy. Such is why social network users have to be all the more vigilant, critiquing false information and halting suspicious online behavior before it overtakes the truth this election year.
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