A page titled “Black Lives Matter” on Facebook had 700,000 followers – twice as many as the movement’s official page – and had collected at least $100,000 in related online fund-raising efforts.
It also was a fake run by a white union official from Australia, according to CNN. Facebook has suspended the page, and fundraising efforts tied to the page have been put on hold by PayPal, Patreon, Donorbox and Classy.
The page, which appeared to have been set up in 2016, was administered by Ian Mackay, a National Union of Workers official in Australia, and had no relationship with the BLM movement, reported CNN. At least some of the money raised in affiliation with the page, supposedly for BLM causes in the United States, went instead to Australian bank accounts, according to the network.
Mackay denied running the Facebook page, CNN reported. Mackay, who has registered dozens of websites with names related to black-rights issues, told the network he had purchased and then resold a Black Lives Matter website once registered in his name.
The National Union of Workers in Australia has suspended Mackay and one other worker as it investigates the allegations, reported SBS News. “The NUW is not involved in and has not authorised any activities with reference to claims made in CNN’s story,” the union said in a statement.
Patrisse Cullors, a BLM co-founder, told CNN the movement had contacted Facebook about the page months ago, suspecting a scam. On Monday, she also posted to Twitter, saying a fake BLM account had been taken down on that platform, as well.
Black Lives Matter posted to Twitter to decry the copycat pages.
“We investigated this situation as soon as it was brought to our attention, and disabled the page admin for maintaining multiple profiles on the platform,” a Facebook spokesman told The Guardian. “We continue to look into the situation and will take the necessary action in line with our policies.”
Mackway became vice president of the National Union of Workers general branch in 2015, and public records indicate he still holds that position, reported The Guardian. The union, one of the most powerful in Australia, represents workers in a variety of industries across the nation.
The investigation into the fake BLM page comes as Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress on Tuesday about privacy concerns and Russian disinformation efforts on the social media platform.
“We didn’t take a broad enough view of our responsibility, and that was a big mistake,” Zuckerberg said, according to The Washington Post. “It was my mistake, and I’m sorry. I started Facebook, I run it, and I’m responsible for what happens here.”