The largest Black Lives Matter page on Facebook has been exposed as a fraud in a new report linking the account to a middle-aged white man in Australia.
Facebook finally acted by suspending the page following warnings months ago from Patrisse Cullors, a co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement, and after multiple inquiries from CNN which reported on the hoax Monday.
The page, called simply “Black Lives Matter,” had nearly 700,000 followers and was a scam that brought in at least $100,000 in online fundraisers that were purportedly going to Black Lives Matter causes in the U.S. CNN reported.
The page apparently linked to websites run by Ian Mackay, an official for the National Union of Workers in Australia, who was suspended pending an investigation.
“A few days after Mackay registered blackpowerfist.com, an anonymous Facebook profile under the name ‘BP Parker’ shared a link to the website. This same profile was an administrator of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ Facebook page until the page was suspended, a Facebook spokesperson has told CNN,” according to CNN tech reporter Donie O’Sullivan.
Online payment platforms such as PayPal, Patreon, Donorbox and Classy suspended fundraising campaigns associated with the Facebook page which reportedly funneled some of the money raised into a bank in Australia.
Facebook initially told CNN that the page “didn’t show anything that violated our Community Standards” after it was presented its findings last week.
“Only after almost a week of emails and calls between CNN and Facebook about this story did Facebook suspend the page, and then only because it had suspended a user account that administrated the page,” CNN reported.
After CNN contacted one of the Australian men associated with the Facebook page, which appeared to have been set up in 2016, it was taken down by an administrator of the page.
According to CNN:
CNN reached out to Mackay last month to ask about his involvement with the “Black Lives Matter,” Facebook page. He denied running it. “I once bought the domain name only and sold it,” he told CNN when asked about a Black Lives Matter website that was once registered to his name.
Within a few hours, the Facebook page had been deactivated.
“This is an organization that we banned months ago. They signed up as the operator of a popular FB page and a BLM social news platform,” Donorbox told CNN. “We banned the account after a couple of donors complained that they thought they donated to the grassroots organization.”
The verified “Black Lives Matter” page on Facebook has about 322,000 followers – half of what the bogus page had. Cullors found CNN’s report disturbing.
“We rely on donors who believe in our work and our cause and that money will be used in a way that is respectful,” the BLM co-founder said.
CNN noted in the report, which comes as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before Congress on the company’s handling of personal user data , that “Facebook took action against a major bad actor on its site not on its own but because journalists made inquiries.”