A high-ranking Australian union official has been suspended amid reports he ran a fake Black Lives Matter Facebook page that solicited donations from the movement’s supporters.
CNN reports that Ian MacKay – an official with the National Union of Workers – helped set up and run a Facebook page called Black Lives Matter as well as other domain names linked to black rights.
The page, which was removed by Facebook after CNN’s queries, had almost 700,000 followers – more than double the official Black Lives Matter page.
MacKay – who is white – did not respond to calls or emails but denied running the page when contacted by CNN.
A statement given to the Guardian by the NUW’s national secretary, Tim Kennedy, said the union had launched an investigation into the claims made in the CNN report.
He said the union had suspended “the relevant officials pending the outcome of an investigation”.
“The NUW is not involved in and has not authorized any activities with reference to claims made in CNN’s story,” he said.
The Guardian understands MacKay and one other NUW official has been suspended.
In 2015 Mackay was appointed vice president of the NUW’s general branch and the union’s public official records state that he still holds the position.
The investigation quoted sources who said the page may have garnered upwards of $100,000 in donations, at least some of which was directed to bank accounts registered in Australia.
It was tied to online donations that supposedly went to Black Lives Matter causes in the US. At least some of the money, however, was transferred to Australian bank accounts, CNN has reported.
Fundraising campaigns associated with the Facebook page were suspended by PayPal, Donorbox, and Patreon after they were contacted for comment.
MacKay also registered other websites with links to black rights, such as blacklivesnews.com, blackkillingsmatter.com, and backfists.com, among more than 100 site names in total.
Domain records show that in 2015 he registered a site known as blackpowerfist.com, which operated as a Reddit-like discussion forum that encouraged donations. Historical domain registration details show Mackay used his union email address to register the site.
Archived records on the site describe the site as being “created” by Black Lives Matter to “share the news that mainstream media play down or hide”.
The historical site records state it is “not funded by any other BLM group, George Soros, Ford foundation or Celebrity”.
“We also help people who can’t get support otherwise that are victims of hate crimes or have been affected by racism that come to us, we can’t often help them financially but try our best to get them free legal advice or someplace to stay with one of our networks,” an archived donations link to the site reads.
The CNN investigation traced an anonymous Facebook profile under the name “BP Parker” who shared a link to the black power fist website the day after it was registered. The same profile was an administrator of the “Black Lives Matter” Facebook page until the page was suspended.
Black Lives Matter was contacted for comment.
It comes as Facebook faces increased scrutiny on the content it hosts on the social media site. The company’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg, is due to appear before the US Congress this week when lawmakers will quiz him about the privacy scandal involving political consultant Cambridge Analytica and Russian use of the platform ahead of the 2016 US election.
A spokesman for Facebook said: “We investigated this situation as soon as it was brought to our attention, and disabled the page admin for maintaining multiple profiles on the platform”.
“We continue to look into the situation and will take the necessary action in line with our policies.”
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