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American department of Russian 'troll factory' found in Africa

Social networks Facebook and Twitter have removed more than 200 fresh pages and accounts of the Internet Research Agency, also known as the "troll factory", reports Air force.

Photo: Shutterstock

This organization has already tried to influence the US presidential elections in 2016, for which the country's authorities added it to the sanctions lists. Then the American department of the "factory" was located in St. Petersburg, but now, according to social networks, two new offices have appeared - in Ghana and Nigeria.

Facebook said it had deleted 49 public and 85 personal pages on the social network of the same name. The company removed another 69 accounts from its Instagram application. Mainly accounts published news about the United States. Their main topics were the history of the black population of the United States, the problems of the LGBT community, news and rumors about celebrities.

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Another 71 accounts were deleted by Twitter. The social network said that the accounts "sowed discord by participating in the discussion of public issues related to race and civil rights."

The American authorities believe that the "troll factory" is run by businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin. He is known in the media as "Putin's chef" and also as the owner of Wagner's private military company. In 2018, the BBC managed to find a connection between Prigozhin's companies and this PMC, which is present in Libya, the CAR and other African countries.

Now it became known that Prigozhin could open branches of his "troll factory" in Africa.

CNN reporters traveled to the capital of Ghana, Accra, and discovered the building in which the trolls lived and worked. It was rented by a small non-governmental organization Eliminating Barriers for the Liberation of Africa (EBLA) - in Russian its name can be translated as "destroying barriers to the liberation of Africa." Its leader Seth Viredu has lived in Russia for a long time and speaks Russian. The photo for its official website EBLA borrowed from photobanks, the file names contained Cyrillic characters.

According to an anonymous CNN source in the Ghanaian branch of the "factory", their working day began in the afternoon and lasted until late at night, that is, the time of publication of posts was focused on the US time zones. According to Facebook, more than 65% of fake page subscribers lived in America.

Many of the “factory” employees lived in the same building or in the neighborhood, in apartments rented for them. A CNN source claims that employees did not suspect that they were working for Russia, and they received topics for posts through a secret chat in Telegram.

In February 2020, the Ghanaian authorities suspected illegal cyber activity in a branch of the "factory" and carried out a raid there. Less is known about the Nigerian branch, but vacancy announcements similar to those posted for the Ghanaian branch of the "factory" confirm its existence.

Ben Nimmo, director of research projects for the independent Graphika platform, believes that the open network was in the process of building up a loyal audience. Many accounts simply reposted viral memes and popular non-policy posts.

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Nimmo emphasizes that at the time of the disclosure of the network, it was impossible to talk about its specific focus on the US presidential elections scheduled for November 3, 2020. However, according to the researcher, this story may provide an answer to those who are wondering whether "Russia is going to interfere in the American elections again."

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