CNN’s investigation uncovered that the page—simply titled Black Lives Matter and boasting 700,000 followers—is connected to Ian Mackay, a National Union of Workers official in Australia who had registered dozens of similar Black rights sites, including a Black Lives Matter Facebook group. The page was also tied to at least $100,000 in fundraisers that were supposed to go to Black Lives Matter causes, but CNN reports that some of that money was transferred to Austrailian bank accounts.
The BLM page has since been suspended by Facebook—and now taken down by an administrator—but only after a week of back-and-forths with CNN about what it uncovered and after first suspending an administrator, according to the news source. A co-founder of the real Black Lives Matter movement, Patrisse Cullors, told CNN that she had flagged the page as a scam months ago without success.
The Facebook page was allegedly started in 2016 and regularly drove traffic to Blackpowerfirst.com, which was registered to Mackay until at least 2015—that same year, the site enabled a feature allowing owners to hide that information. When CNN contacted Mackay about the Black Lives Matter page, he denied running it. He has since been suspended from his job, according to National Union of Workers.
This revelation once again poses the question of how Facebook is monitoring and verifying its content. CNN said that when it first flagged the page, Facebook said it did not violate its “Community Standards.” The platform has, however, recently announced it will make people running large pages verify their identity and location.
Correction: A previous version referred to Cullors with the wrong pronoun. We regret the error.