In April of 2018, CNN reported a counterfeit Black Lives Matter (BLM) Facebook page, operated by Australian national, Ian Mackay. Listing BLM as its owner and originator, the fake page collected more than $100,000, and claimed nearly 700,000 followers. CNN and BLM spokespeople insisted that in spite of repeated requests, Facebook refused to restrict platform access and collection activities until April 8, 2018, when the page disappeared and all associated fundraising campaigns were suspended pending further inquiry. Trailing cultural appropriation, group identity theft, corporate disregard, and profiteering, this event marks a space of opportunistic data manipulation and abuse indexical to considerations of power and new media technologies by recognizing that the liberalism and meritocracy associated with the internet is lodged in hegemonic wealth, power, and privilege that ignores the systemic inequalities of institutional racism.
Understanding that the persistent nature of institutional racism is not contingent upon race alone cannot account for Facebook’s denial of their choices in the predatory space of fraud. The co-opting of the BLM Facebook page and replication of identity exploit the linking of race and sharing, to community and performance through the power of new media business and technology. Viewed as seductive hegemonic strains of coercive soft power, lodged in the global reach of social media, the hijacking of the BLM Facebook page is symptomatic of the toxic systemic privilege that allows the internet to function as a free market while ignoring the inequalities built into it – challenging Facebook’s color-blind and value-neutral claim to social connectivity.
In this connective environment, the BLM/Facebook Fraud event is a Call to Action for regulation surrounding internet platform use and abuse. It is also a call to look at safeguarding authentic verified online voices from and in response to misuse and interference of platform affordances. Themes of internet equality imply a need for legislative review of how Facebook and other social media platforms engage profit through datamining, privacy, and ownership. Options supporting platform integrity suggest that if laws are constructed and enforced around sociality and media ownership and use, with broad goals of establishing internet equality and ending all forms of oppression, there will remain questions; namely, who will make the laws, and who will they protect?
History suggests that money and power will always be privileged above the centrality of experiences outside of wealth, power, and privilege.