A Facebook page that purported to be connected to the Black Lives Matter movement and featured 700,000 followers has been exposed as a fake, according to CNN.
For at least a year, the biggest page on Facebook purporting to be part of the Black Lives Matter movement was a scam with ties to a middle-aged white man in Australia, a review of the page and associated accounts and websites conducted by CNN shows.
The page, titled simply “Black Lives Matter,” had almost 700,000 followers on Facebook, more than twice as many as the official Black Lives Matter page. It was tied to online fundraisers that brought in at least $100,000 that supposedly went to Black Lives Matter causes in the U.S. At least some of the money, however, was transferred to Australian bank accounts, CNN has learned.
Fundraising campaigns associated with the Facebook page were suspended by PayPal, Donorbox, Classy, and Patreon after CNN contacted each of the companies for comment.
The discovery raises new questions about the integrity of Facebook’s platform and the content hosted there. In the run-up to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony before Congress this week, Facebook has announced plans to make the people running large pages verify their identity and location. But it’s not clear that the change would affect this page: Facebook has not said what information about page owners it will disclose to the public — and, presented with CNN’s findings, Facebook initially said the page didn’t violate its “Community Standards.”
Only after almost a week of emails and calls between CNN and Facebook about this story did Facebook suspend the page, and then only because it had suspended a user account that administrated the page.
In my youth, the catchphrase was: “Question everything.” That advice led to radical social change, revisionism, distrust of government and major institutions, and all the good and bad changes in America that have taken place since the 1960s.
We could use a bit of that skepticism today.
What is real anymore? With the importance of social media to our lives, our politics, our culture — even our most intimate relationships — if tech giants can’t guarantee that what we’re consuming on their platforms is real, isn’t the concept of reality itself in question? Who has time to carefully check information sources for accuracy and viability? Is anyone really checking the checkers?
It’s fashionable on the right and left to claim that information that reflects badly on our beliefs is “fake news.” A “news” story based on anonymous sources or coming from a partisan point of view is easy enough to dismiss, but you can’t ignore a factual, accurately sourced report and pretend that, just because it’s critical of Trump, or Republicans, or conservatives, it’s “fake.”
There is good journalism happening in America and the facts being reported are automatically rejected because they appear on a “liberal” or “conservative” website or newspaper. This is rapidly leading to the creation of a dystopian world where information is meaningless, facts are whatever we want them to be, and communication is impossible because no one can agree what is real. Think the Tower of Babel on steroids.
There is little doubt that other Facebook pages and Twitter accounts are not what they purport to be. That a Black Lives Matter page is fake is hardly the point. It could happen anywhere to anyone. And the solution isn’t much better. Imagine tech giants with the ability to reach into your most private self just to determine if you are who you say you are.
There is a price to pay for change. But the price we’re paying to stay in touch and reach out across the ether to unite the world in ways unfathomable a few decades ago may be too high to bear.