As Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg heads to Capitol Hill to testify before Congress to explain how foreign groups were allowed to infiltrate the social network, new information has come to light about the platform’s most popular Black Lives Matter page.
According to CNN, the page titled “Black Lives Matter” had 700,000 followers, more than double the reach of the official Black Lives Matter Global Network page.The fake page was apparently tied to an Australian national named Ian Mackay, who works with the country’s National Union of Workers group, and was used to raise more than $100,000.
Mackay was suspended by the National Union of Workers and has denied being in charge of the page, but CNN found that he had registered over a dozen websites, most of them tied to Black causes.
Patrisse Khan-Cullors, co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement, said her group knew the Mackay-linked page was fake and tried to get Facebook to take it down, but the social media network failed to act until CNN inquired about the matter.
“These fake BLM accounts and fake BLM people literally stealing money off of Black Death is so stomach churning I can’t even begin to explain,” Khan-Cullors said on Twitter. “We told fb over and over again to shut that shit down. And it wouldn’t. Glad it’s down now.”
This isn’t the first time foreign groups attempted to co-opt Black Lives Matter and its aims. Back in February, special counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russian citizens for meddling in the 2016 presidential elections. According to the charging documents, the Russians were part of the Internet Research Agency, a troll farm that spread fake news and regularly targeted those both against and in favor of Black Lives Matter.
“It’s striking how systematic the trolls were,” Ahmer Arif, a researcher who looked into the ways Internet trolls increase polarization, told Mother Jones. “The content they’re sharing is tailored to align to each audience’s preferences.