On Monday, CNN reported that one of the largest ‘Black Lives Matter’ Facebook pages is a fake, raising over USD $100,000 which, while proposed to go to the social movement, has at least had some funds sent to an Australian bank account.
Diving deep, the news site uncovered that the ‘Black Lives Matter’ page (@blacklivesmatter1), which had almost 700,000 likes, was likely created in 2016 by Ian Mackay, an Australian National Union of Workers official.
Mackay, who, for the record, is reportedly white, had also registered several domains relating to BLM which the page linked to, including blackpowerfist.com and blacklivesmatter.media. In addition to merch stores, there were also donation pages on fundraising sites such as Donorbox, PayPal, Patreon, and Classy.
After CNN reached out to these sites, the donation pages were suspended. Facebook suspended the page, but CNN reports that they only did so after they repeatedly talked to the social media site, describing the process in exasperated terms.
The page has now been removed by its own administrators after CNN contacted Mackay, who denied involvement in the page, insisting that he had also sold any BLM-related domains. It’s a move the page has made several times: when journalists and activists have previously raises suspicions over its veracity, it had also been momentarily removed.
While Facebook announced plans last week to make sure large pages are verified, it’s unclear how they can do so. BLM, for example, remains a grass-roots movement in large part, without a central organisation: how can something decentralised avoid being co-opted?
The issue raises further scrutiny for FB as Mark Zuckerberg faces US Congress this week regarding the Cambridge Analytica data scandal. In addition, several similar politically minded pages have been proven to be operated by Russian bots.
The Australian National Union of Workers have confirmed they are conducting their own investigation.