Black Lives Matter is a worldwide organization that supports various campaigns and protests that fight combat violence and racism that often afflict black people. While BLM is a movement that aims to protect the well-being and safety of black communities, some people might be using the BLM name to profit off their cause. According to CNN Tech, the most prominent unverified BLM Facebook page was actually a scam and allegedly run by a middle-aged white man in Australia.
MarketWatch reports that the page, which had approximately 700,000 followers, was entitled “Black Lives Matter.” While the page in questions was not verified by Facebook, the page had notably more supports then the verified page, which is legitimately affiliated with BLM.
CNN notes that the page claims that proceeds went to BLM-related causes in the U.S.; however, a portion of the funds was transferred to Australian bank accounts.
— Fox News (@FoxNews) April 10, 2018
Amidst Facebook’s ongoing debacle regarding user data collection, CNN Tech claims that Facebook refused to terminate the account immediately, even after the media outlets contacted Facebook for approximately a week. Facebook did eventually suspend the page, but CNN notes that the social media conglomerate only suspended it after it has suspended an admin of the page.
The New York Post reports that this sham BLM page was run by Ian Mackay, who is an official at the National Union of Workers in Australia and has previously worked as an organizer and branch vice president for the organization.
Regardless, this isn’t the first time that Mackay has profited off of phony activism. According to CNN, Mackay has previously registered several websites, often (and falsely) associated with black-rights organizations and protests. The Post adds that back in April 2015, Mackay also registered blackpowerfist.com under his own name and contact information.
Since these allegations have surfaced, the National Union of Workers has suspended Mackay’s employment, and he is currently awaiting investigation. Tim Kennedy, the union’s national secretary, tells The Post, “The NUW is not involved in, and has not authorized, any activities with references to claims made in CNN’s story.
Nevertheless, certain sources claim that Facebook was negligent of this on-going issues. Quartz claims that Patrisse Cullors, one of BLM’s co-founders, notified Facebook several months ago about this apparent scam; however, Facebook did not reprimand this hoax page.
Cullors tells The Post, “We rely on donors who believe in our work and our cause and that [the] money will be used in a way that is respectful." Because donors for Mackay's page assumed their money would benefit the legitimate BLM cause, this fake page indirectly took money away from BLM. (Plus, Mackay's fake page is inadvertently associated with the real BLM, which can fear-monger people from donating to notable organizations in the future.)
Although the page has since been suspended and various payments platforms have stopped supporting this fake cause, this shady page isn’t a solitary incident. Because social media platforms are plagued with bot accounts and deceptive accounts, the best way to verify a page’s authenticity is to directly contact the organization that the page claims to be affiliated with.