It turns out that the largest Black Lives Matter page on Facebook was a hoax, and the site failed to stop it
Between the spread of fake news and the recent Cambridge Analytica data breach, Facebook has come under fire for the prominence of inauthentic information on its site. In response, the social network has made it easier to discern when fake news articles are shared on the platform, but there is still more work to be done. And now, a prominent Black Lives Matter Facebook page has been revealed to be a scam.
Yesterday, April 9th, CNN reported that a Black Lives Matter Facebook page with nearly 700,000 followers — more than twice as many as the official page — was created and run by a middle-aged white man in Australia. The page was named “Black Lives Matter,” and according to CNN, more than $100,000 was donated to fundraisers connected to the fake page. Some of the money raised by these fundraisers was transferred to Australian bank accounts.
The man behind the hoax Facebook page was identified as Ian MacKay, an official of Australia’s National Union of Workers. Other domains registered to MacKay’s NUW email address also referenced black rights. MacKay reportedly denied any connection to the page, but the NUW’s national secretary, Tim Kennedy, told the Guardian that “the relevant officials” were being investigated.
Facebook removed the page only after one of the administrators’ accounts was suspended — several days after CNN notified the social network about the fraud. Facebook issued a statement that it was working to better detect fraudulent accounts.
"We’ve developed several techniques to help detect and block inauthentic activity. When people report impersonators using our built-in reporting flows, our teams review each one and take the appropriate action," a Facebook spokesperson said in the statement. "Just last week, Facebook introduced new machine learning techniques to detect and action more than a half-million accounts related to fraudulent activity."
The official Black Lives Matter Twitter account posted a statement asking that social media outlets “do their due diligence so supporters aren’t misled and resources aren’t misappropriated.”
The fact that such a large-scale Black Lives Matter Facebook page was fake indicates just how difficult it can be to tell what’s real on the internet. We need Facebook and other social media networks to do their part and prevent scams like this from happening again.