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“And it certainly didn't have the public access facilities or Internet cafés that most Ghanaians needed.More widespread Internet access didn’t become available until the early 2000s.” As a result, subcultures of the Internet and ‘netiquette’ — rules and expectations about how to relate to people online — developed in the US in the 1990s and were cemented before most Ghanaians ever encountered the Internet.Although Ghana’s elite already had Internet access and international connections, the more widespread availability of public Internet cafés provided the first opportunity for many ordinary Ghanaians — especially youth — to interact with the wider world.“The Internet provided opportunities for making faraway places very tangible and personal,” said Burrell.Once the “boyfriend” was properly seduced, the scammer would invent a scenario.He might ask for money to pay for travel so that they could meet in person or he might claim a family member was gravely ill and ask for help with medical expenses. “And so if I ask for money he will give it to me, definitely.” But over months and months of effort, despite Gabby’s apparent confidence and the rumors of vast profits, he was unable to dupe anyone or make any scamming profits.Gabby was confident that his plans would prove profitable. In fact, the young scammers that Burrell spoke with in 2005 admitted to her that they saw few if any gains from their strategies.
Entire Internet cafés had been overtaken by scammers, and their profits were clearly evident in the young men’s conspicuous consumption of new cars, jewelry, and trendy upscale clothes.“Such enforced disconnection and avoidance followed a seemingly minor interactional misstep,” Burrell said, most often requests for money or gifts.In her research in Ghana, Burrell encountered a number of young non-elite Ghanaians pursuing another approach to the Internet’s promise of prosperity: online scamming.“This thrill was evident in the most popular of Internet activities among youth — collecting pen pals.” Burrell observed young Ghanaians pursuing a variety of relationships with foreigners online, including same-aged platonic friendships, romantic relationships, older adults to appeal to for advice, patrons offering financial support, and even business partnerships.Burrell tells a story of a burgeoning online friendship between Fauzia, a young Ghanaian woman, and an Egyptian man.