US news giant, Cable News Network (CNN) has broadcasted a video story on a Russian election troll operation based in Ghana.
According to the investigative piece, the base, which operates under a program called Ebla, was purpose to repeat the criminal influence of the upcoming Presidential election in the US scheduled for November.
Ghana’s National Security apparatus, according to the story, is aware of the base and actually raided its hideout a few weeks ago. The vacated hideout was said to be about an hour’s drive away from the city center in Accra and had been fronted as an NGO.
Following the raid, the Russian troll operation had merely relocated from its original office building and set up elsewhere as it still operated online until CNN’s story led to social media sites pulling down its accounts.
Ebla, according to revelations, operated with the same methods as the Russian internet research agency, IRA, which interfered in the 2016 US elections by targeting people with negative messages about Democratic Candidate Hilary Clinton, ahead of the polls.
According to CNN, the IRA curated messages and targeted Americans with them, pitting one American against the other ahead of the 2016 election.
Run by Yevgeny Viktorovich Prigozhin, a close associate of President Vladimir Putin, the IRA was later sanctioned by the US. Apparently, as CNN reports, it appears that the sanctions have forced the Russians who are bent on influencing the 2020 election too to relocate their operations to bases in Africa.
In Ghana, Ebla recruited people and trained them to amass followers online, to whom they could blast carefully programmed messages.
Speaking with at least one former employee of Ebla, CNN found out that the main point man for the Russian troll company in Ghana is one Seth Wiredu, who posed as a Mr. Amara from South Africa.
Under the thumb of Wiredu who is said to have studied in Russia and speaks Russian fluently, was a staff strength of 16.
“So we were trained to use the relevant hash tags so if I’m posting about #blacklives matter I shouldn’t add a hashtag about probably Beyonce…Initially, your success is measured by the number of people you reach but most importantly you have to get followers online,” one of the sixteen former employees told CNN.
Months after starting the Ghana operation, Wiredu opened a second operation in Nigeria in January this year, CNN reported.
As the American media giant would reveal, the raid on its office in the outskirts of Accra three weeks ago, did not break the neck of Ebla which apparently only relocated. This is because the company kept making its presence felt online.
The CNN reporter on the Ghana beat would later learn that Seth Wiredu had organized a secret meeting with employees on a University campus and met him there in an undercover operation.
After Wiredu had been accosted he admitted that Mr. Amara was not his real name and he was also not from South Africa as he had told his employees. According to him, he has every right to call himself whatever he pleases.
However, he claimed he knew nothing about Ebla and the IRA and that he was only working for God and his country Ghana.
After the interview with CNN he was seen driving off in a red Mercedes Benz.
Meanwhile, CNN reports that since the story broke, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have taken down 274 accounts belonging to Ebla.
Those accounts were reaching about a quarter of a million people mostly, Americans, CNN reported.
It is not known whether Ebla is also meddling in the upcoming elections in Ghana.