Atlanta, GA – For more than a year, the biggest Black Lives Matter page on Facebook was run by a white guy in Australia, and nobody’s clear on what happened to more than $100,000 that was crowdfunded by it.
CNN did an extensive investigation into who, exactly, the popular page with more than 700,000 members actually belonged to, and where the money was going that was raised by at least four fundraising campaigns that appeared on its timeline.
The people behind the Black Lives Matter page also ran the 40,000-member Facebook group by the same name, CNN reported.
The page consistently links to websites tied to a national union official in Australia named Ian Mackay.
Mackay has registered dozens of domains, many of which are linked to black rights, CNN reported.
Sources told CNN that the page’s fundraising efforts had netted them about $100,000.
“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,” a fundraising message on their Donorbox page read.
“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,” the page read.
Facebook would not comment on whether the page had been using paid advertising to boost its visibility on their social media platform.
Donorbox told CNN that the same people behind the bogus Black Lives Matter fundraising initiatives set up that fundraiser, and another one that was billed as an “Education And Training Portal Sponsorship Fund” that promised to sponsor “online courses that educate people about the struggle of civil rights leaders and activists.”
Donorbox shut down both fundraisers, but the same people had also set up fundraisers on PayPal, Patreon, and Classy.
A source told CNN that at least one fundraising account was linked to Mackay by name, and another was tied to an Australian IP address and bank account.
“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,” Donorbox told CNN in an email.
“We banned the account after a couple of donors complained that they thought they donated to the grassroots organization,” they wrote.
Donorbox told CNN that most of the donations came from people clicking links on the Black Lives Matter Facebook page and on websites linked to Mackay.
A Donorbox campaign that was still active in February had an email address for Black Lives Matter Memphis, but a spokeswoman from that group said they had nothing to do with it, so Donorbox shut it down.
CNN reported that both Patreon and PayPal suspended the fake Black Lives Matter fundraising accounts after the network contacted them.
Classy said the campaign posted on their website had never made it through the approval process, so no money had been transferred to the people who set it up.
Neither PayPal nor Donorbox would tell CNN how much money was raised by the bogus organization on their site, but Patreon said only $194 was raised through them.
Australia’s National Union of Workers National Secretary Tim Kennedy told CNN that Mackay and one other union official had been suspended “while it investigates the situation.” The union represents thousands of workers across multiple industries.
Kennedy said in a statement that the union “is not involved in and has not authorized any activities with reference to claims made in CNN’s story.”
When CNN presented all of its findings to Facebook, the social media giant said their investigation “didn’t show anything that violated our Community Standards.”
However, the page was disabled on Monday morning after Facebook suspended the profile of a page administrator for “violating its community standards,” CNN reported.