A “Black Lives Matter” page boasting nearly 700,000 Facebook followers is actually a scam run by a middle-aged white man in Australia, a CNN investigation has revealed.
The page, simply titled “Black Lives Matter,” is the largest page on Facebook purporting to be part of the Black Lives Matter movement, and has garnered more than twice as many followers as the official BLM page, according to CNN. The scammer page has been tied to online fundraisers that raked in nearly $100,000 that was supposed to support BLM causes in the U.S., but some of which was transferred to Australian bank accounts instead.
The startling revelations come just as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg heads to testify before Congress on Tuesday after 87 million users’ personal information was shared, or accessed by British consulting firm Cambridge Analytica. Since the fallout, Facebook has vowed to make changes, requiring people running large pages such as the “BLM” one to confirm their identity and location.
CNN reported that the scam BLM page was shut down several days after CNN brought it to the company’s attention, and only after it suspended the account of the person running the page: Australian man Ian Mackay. It turns out others have gone to Facebook with concerns about the page in the past, including BLM co-founder Patrice Cullors. Cullors told the news network she suspected Mackay’s page was a scam and contacted Facebook about removing it a few months ago.
The page has been consistently tied to websites registered by Mackay, a National Union of Workers official from Down Under. The union worker and his cronies are also behind a Black Lives Matter Facebook group, one of the largest on the platform. He has registered several websites, many of which appeared to support Black issues, which Mackay then linked to his fake BLM page, CNN reported.
The folks behind the website and Facebook page also encouraged users to donate to their “cause” via various fundraising platforms like Donorbox, PayPal and Classy.
“Our mission is to raise awareness about racism, bigotry, police brutality and hate crimes by exposing through social media locally and internationally stories that mainstream media don’t,” a message on the group’s Donorbox page stated.
“We have built a following through hard work, dedication and the generosity of supporters like you that pitch in a what they can to help us promote or share our page and also pay to boost the stories the mainstream media try to suppress through paid ads,” it continued.
National Union of Workers has since suspended Mackay and a fellow official as it investigates the claims reported by CNN.
The union “is not involved in and has not authorized any activities with reference to claims made in CNN’s story,” National Secretary Tim Kennedy said in a statement.