In the movie Malcom X, starring Denzel Washington, Washington’s character is preaching about how black people have been fooled. He say’s “We been hoodwinked, bam-boozled, flim-flammed, led astray…” It seems that is exactly what has happen to African-Americans and the Black Lives Matter Movement (BLM).
The official Black Lives Matter Facebook page claims more than 300,000 ‘Likes.’ But according to CNN a fake BLM Facebook page has claimed over 700,000 ‘Likes.’ The phony page is allegedly linked to a Australian man by the name of Ian Mackay. Mackay has registered numerous sites related to black civil rights like blackpowerfist.com.
The page is suspected of raising over $100,000 for BLM causes via online fundraising. Some of the money was instead transferred to Australian bank accounts.
When contacted by CNN MacKay claimed he didn’t run, but did own, a connected website which was registered under his name, but he “once bought the domain name only and sold it.”
Facebook suspended the site after Mackay was questioned about his involvement by a blogger, Jeremy Massler, last December. In an email to Mashable Massler said he was blocked from the fake Facebook page after questioning the site’s authenticity. According to Massler he was not alone as others had commented about the site questioning its authenticity and expressing concerns about the page’s administrators. “I certainly wasn’t the first to notice,” said Massler. “The real hurdle seemed to be getting a response (or even an acknowledgment) from Facebook about the issue.”
CNN reported Facebook’s reluctance to remove the page when contacted. It took a week for Facebook to act after numerous emails and calls between CNN and Facebook. But Facebook was notified about the site months ago. Founder of Black Lives Matter, Patrisse Cullors, told CNN she contacted Facebook months ago about shutting down the fake site.
Cullors pointed out the damage done to the movement by fake fundraising saying that it devalues the movement’s work, and that it relies “on donors who believe in our work and our cause and that money will be used in a way that is respectful.”
According to CNN the people behind the Fake BLM page operated another hugely popular Facebook Group also titled ‘Black Lives Matter.’ The site has nearly 40,000 members. The site reportedly is the largest group on the platform professing to be supporting Black Lives Matter. Facebook Groups are similar to traditional discussion forums but people have to request to join.
Mackay, a former official with Australia’s National Union of Workers, has been consistently linked to the fake sites and was suspended by the organization as it investigated his involvement. Mackay has since been fired from the organization. But Western Australian police have not begun any investigation. The police force said it was “not aware of any complaints” about the fake pages. A union spokesperson told the Guardian that officials were “very happy to cooperate with whoever the relevant authorities are”.
Mackay has registered dozens of websites focused on black rights. In 2015 Mackay registered blackpowerfist.com. Mackay’s name, email address, phone number and other details appeared in the registration records for the site until July 2015 when the website began allowing site owners to conceal their identities and contact information. MacKay also registered other websites such as blacklivesnews.com, blackkillingsmatter.com and blackfists.com, and 100 other site names in total.
The Facebook page continually generated traffic for other websites associated with blackpowerfist.com. Internet archive records showed that Mackay was listed as the administrative and technical contact to blacklivesmatter.media.
Facebook told CNN that Mackay registered blackpowerfist.com using an anonymous Facebook profile under the name ‘BP Parker’ and shared a link to the site. BP Parker was also named as an administrator of the “Black Lives Matter” Facebook page until that page was suspended.
The people behind the websites and the fake Facebook pages were able to fool people into donating money using various online fundraising platforms, including Donorbox.
The groups Donorbox page read, “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. 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.”
Black activist, DeRay Mckesson, told CNN. “The consequences of that is it hasn’t been easy to think about authenticity in the digital space.”
Facebook has deleted the site and told CNN that they have “developed several techniques to help detect and block inauthentic activity such as this,” and that the social network’s teams review reports of impersonators from the public.