The biggest page on Facebook purporting to be part of the Black Lives Matter movement had alleged ties to a middle-aged white Australian man; some of the money it raised went to Australian bank accounts. According to CNN, even when Facebook was alerted to the issue, months went by before action was taken, and that was only after CNN spent a week sending emails and making phone calls to Facebook to tell them they were going to run the story.
The page was titled "Black Lives Matter," and had roughly 700,000 followers on Facebook, more than double the official Black Lives Matter page. CNN reports, “It was tied to online fundraisers that brought in at least $100,000 that supposedly went to Black Lives Matter causes in the U.S. At least some of the money, however, was transferred to Australian bank accounts.”
CNN contacted various fundraising campaigns associated with the Facebook page, including PayPal, Donorbox, Classy, and Patreon, which suspended their campaigns.
CNN noted, “Indeed, Facebook was told of concerns about the page some time ago. Patrisse Cullors, a co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement, told CNN that Black Lives Matter had, suspecting the page was a scam, contacted Facebook about removing it a few months ago.”
The creators of the page supervised a Facebook Group titled "Black Lives Matter" which had almost 40,000 members. The page frequently linked to websites tied to Ian Mackay, a National Union of Workers official.
Mackay has registered dozens of websites, many on issues tied to black rights. In April 2015, Mackay registered blackpowerfist.com. … The Facebook page continually drove traffic to websites associated with blackpowerfist.com, which was eventually turned into a Reddit-like discussion forum. One of the websites included blacklivesmatter.media, for which Mackay is listed as the administrative and technical contact in at least one archived internet record. A few days after Mackay registered blackpowerfist.com, an anonymous Facebook profile under the name "BP Parker" shared a link to the website. This same profile was an administrator of the "Black Lives Matter" Facebook page until the page was suspended, a Facebook spokesperson has told CNN.
Visitors to the websites and the Facebook page were urged to donate through various online fundraising platforms, including Donorbox. One message on the group's Donorbox page stated:
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 at 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.
Donorbox removed another page titled "Education And Training Portal Sponsorship Fund" that promised "online courses that educate people about the struggle of civil rights leaders and activists."
One source told CNN Fundraisersthat one fundraising account was tied to Ian Mackay by name; another source told CNN that the group had raised around $100,000.
CNN reported that the network contacted Mackay last month; he denied running the Facebook page.
Last December, a freelance investigator, Jeremy Massler, noted Mackay's apparent links to the page and wrote a blog post, prompting the removal of the page.
Last week, CNN informed Facebook, but when CNN delineated how the page's linked to fundraising accounts suspended on other platforms, Facebook responded that it had found the page "didn't show anything that violated our Community Standards." But by Monday morning, Facebook disabled the BP Parker profile for violating its community standards, which in turn disabled the page, according to a company spokesperson.
Donorbox emailed CNN, "This is an organization that we banned months ago. They signed up as the operator of a popular FB page and a BLM social news platform. We banned the account after a couple of donors complained that they thought they donated to the grassroots organization."
CNN wrote, “One of the Donorbox campaigns that was active as recently as February of this year included an email address for Black Lives Matter Memphis. Pamela Moses, a spokesperson for Black Lives Matter Memphis, said her group had nothing to do with the fundraiser. Donorbox removed the campaign, the company told CNN.”
Mackay told CNN, "My domain name buying and selling is a personal hobby.”