A high-ranking Australian union official has been suspended amid claims he ran a fake Black Lives Matter Facebook page that solicited donations from the movement’s supporters.
CNN reported that Ian MacKay — an official with the National Union of Workers (NUW) — helped set up and, for at least a year, ran a Facebook page called Black Lives Matter.
The page had almost 700,000 followers, which is more than twice as many as the official Black Lives Matter page does.
MacKay, a white middle-aged Australian man, hasn’t responded to calls or emails but denied running the page. He may be right in denying “running” a page as the domain records show he registered more than 100 site names in total. He made sure to register these websites with links to black rights, such as blacklivesnews.com, blackkillingsmatter.com and backfists.com.
Historical domain registration details showed in 2015 he registered a site known as blackpowerfist.com, which operated as a Reddit-like discussion forum that encouraged donations.
The fact the scam page was able to direct portion of online fundraisers’ money from Black Lives Matter causes in the U.S. to Australian bank accounts is indicative of the harsh reality that help, which some African Americans genuinely needed, never reached them — all because of some greedy people.
NUW’s national secretary, Tim Kennedy, said the union launched an investigation into the claims made in the CNN report.
He said the union had suspended “the relevant officials pending the outcome of an investigation.”
“The NUW is not involved in and has not authorized any activities with reference to claims made in CNN’s story,” he said.
Fundraising campaigns associated with the Facebook page were suspended by PayPal, Donorbox, Classy and Patreon after they were contacted for comment.
Such instances where the social media platform has wrongfully been used for illicit purposes further jeopardizes an already precarious position of Facebook.
In the wake of recent events, Facebook's integrity has been repeatedly questioned — for this particular scam, Facebook initially said the page didn't violate its "Community Standards." But later when the findings of CNN surfaced, it deactivated the page.
It is about time Facebook acts on its announced plans to force people running large pages verify their identity and location. Apart from enacting stringent regulations, the company also needs to promptly act on complaints placed by users. Patrisse Cullors, a co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement, suspected the page was a scam and contacted Facebook about removing it a few months ago, to no avail.
A spokesman for Facebook said: “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. We continue to look into the situation and will take the necessary action in line with our policies.”
It is appalling that at a time when the Black Lives Matter activist movement requires widespread support due to a surge in incidents targeting African Americans, there are people who would try to discredit it to satisfy their unquenchable greed.
Banner Image Credits: REUTERS/Joshua Roberts