Tuesday, April 17, 2018 by Ethan Huff
It was recently revealed that the largest social media group claiming to represent the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement was a total fake, and that the man who ran it collected more than $100,000 in donations that he reportedly kept for himself.
According to reports, the man’s page, which on Facebook was simply named “Black Lives Matter,” had almost 700,000 followers before it was identified as being fraudulent. Multiple money transfers that were made to private Australian bank accounts ended up becoming some of the first clues that something was not right with the page.
Both PayPal and Patreon immediately suspended the fundraising campaigns that were associated with the Facebook page, which quickly caught the attention of the media. Right around the same time, two other fundraising pages, Donorbox and Classy, removed their campaigns from the BLM page as well.
But the damage was already done at that point, and many BLM supporters are now wondering whether or not they, too, were bilked by this or potentially other similar scams. Since there’s no way to really know who runs group pages on Facebook, including those categorized as advocacy or humanitarian, it’s difficult to say where the money goes when people contribute donations.
“For at least a year, the biggest page on Facebook purporting to be part of the Black Lives Matter movement was a scam with ties to a middle-aged white man in Australia, a review of the page and associated accounts and websites conducted by CNN shows,” reported CNN Money.
“The page, titled simply ‘Black Lives Matter,’ had almost 700,000 followers on Facebook, more than twice as many as the official Black Lives Matter page.”
While the unidentified culprit in Australia is technically to blame for this fiasco, one might argue that Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg is equally complicit. After all, it was his company’s absolute lack of oversight that allowed this impostor page to crop up and overtake the real one.
In fact, Facebook has never even bothered to establish any basic standards for verifying the legitimacy of large pages like this, including identity and location information for those that ask people for money or donations. It wasn’t until Zuckerberg was summoned before Congress that Facebook has suddenly decided to implement some common sense standards.
But before all this Facebook maintained a “Wild West,” anything goes standard that allowed pretty much anyone one with scamming skills to set up a page and use it to bilk money from people.
Interestingly enough, Facebook wouldn’t have even taken the fake BLM page down, had it not been for the fact that it had already suspended one of the page’s administrators, presumably for some other reason – and really only because of the media ruckus that ensued.
“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,” explains CNN Money.
“The discovery also raises questions about Facebook’s commitment to change, and to policing its platform, even in the midst of its PR offensive leading up to Zuckerberg’s testimony.”
It should be pointed out that the official Black Lives Matter group had already previously contacted Facebook about the issue. Nothing was done about it, so CNN took matters into its own hands to try to get to the bottom of the issue.
It was later determined that the phony page had been consistently linking to websites tied to Ian Mackay, a National Union of Workers (NUW) official in Australia. A spokesperson for NUW told the media that it has since suspended Mackay, along with one other official, while it conducts an investigation into the matter.
Sources for this article include: