A high-ranking Australian union official has been stood down amid claims he was involved in a fake Black Lives Matter Facebook page which collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations.
The Black Lives Matter page had almost 700,000 followers — dwarfing the movement’s official page — before it was suspended by Facebook.
It allegedly collected money through online fundraisers and solicited more than $US100,000 ($129,000) in donations, according to an investigation by US media outlet CNN.
CNN reported some of the bank accounts where the money was transferred were in Australia and it was unclear how much was provided to genuine causes.
Two officials suspended
National Workers Union (NUW) general branch vice-president Ian Mackay was linked to the fake Facebook page in the CNN report and is one of two NUW officials to have been suspended.
“The NUW has launched an investigation into claims made by a CNN report and has suspended the relevant officials pending the outcome of an investigation,” NUW national secretary Tim Kennedy said.
“The NUW is not involved in and has not authorised any activities with reference to claims made in CNN’s story.”
The ABC has contacted Mr Mackay for comment.
The fake Black Lives Matter Facebook page sent money to Australian bank accounts. (Andrew McCathie, file)
Movement began after Trayvon Martin death
The Black Lives Matter activist movement originated in the United States, and campaigns against violence and racism towards black people.
It began as a social media campaign after the man who shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was acquitted in 2013, and gained further prominence after the deaths of two other young black men in 2014.
The official Facebook page of the movement has about 320,000 followers — less than half of the former page allegedly run by Mr Mackay.
Facebook conducting its own investigation
Both pages had the title of “Black Lives Matter” — however the official page is distinguished by a “verified” tick on Facebook.
A Facebook spokeswoman said the social media site was also carrying out an investigation and would take “necessary action”.
The bogus page had almost 700,000 followers, more than twice as many as the official Black Lives Matter page on Facebook. (Reuters: Dado Ruvic/illustration)
“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,” the spokeswoman said.
CNN reported PayPal, Patreon, Donorbox and Classy had all removed fundraisers linked to the allegedly fraudulent account.