Sponsored Links

Fake Black Lives Matter page on Facebook eclipsed the real thing

It suggests Facebook still has work to do on verifying pages.
Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Jon Fingas
Jon Fingas|@jonfingas|April 9, 2018 7:36 PM

Facebook has had some success purging fake and misleading pages, but it's evident there's still work to do. CNN has discovered that the most popular Black Lives Matter page for the past year was a scam -- it was supposedly fundraising for BLM causes in the US, but sent at least some money to Australian bank accounts and frequently linked to the websites from Ian Mackay, a workers' union official in Australia. It had nearly 700,000 followers where the real activist group's page has less than half that amount.

Mackay had denied running the page, but the page has conveniently been altered or taken down when investigators have pinpointed the man's involvement.

The bigger concern may be Facebook's own response. Payment services Classy, Donorbox, PayPal and Patreon all suspended the fake page's fundraising campaigns before or soon after CNN got in touch, but the news outlet claims that Facebook didn't suspend the page (by suspending an administrator) until after a week of back-and-forth discussion. It initially didn't think the page violated policies at all, but eventually changed its mind. Moreover, BLM co-founder Patrisse Cullors asked Facebook to take down the scam page months ago.

When asked for comment, Facebook said only that it had created "several techniques" to find and stop fake activity, and that its teams reviewed them to take "appropriate action." These include new machine learning methods that have helped catch "more than a half-million accounts."

Turn on browser notifications to receive breaking news alerts from Engadget
You can disable notifications at any time in your settings menu.
Not now

It's important to stress that this isn't exclusively a Facebook problem -- there has been more than one bogus BLM account on Twitter, including others that are still active as of this writing. Really, the issue is that Facebook and other social networks continue to have difficulty spotting and dealing with fake pages. This also highlights recurring trouble with social sites' reactions to policy violators -- they sometimes only take action when an issue reaches the media.

Update: Classy said that CNN was initially incorrect, and that it had disabled transactions "long before" the news network got in contact.

Comments to this article were available for the first 24 hours after publication only, and have since been closed.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission. All prices are correct at the time of publishing.