ATLANTA — A warning for mothers, after our VERIFY team looked into one of your questions.
The "Atlanta Moms" private Facebook group has more than 18,000 members. It's meant for moms to connect and share advice. But who exactly is running this page? One of our viewers believes it's a man in a completely different country.
Is the administrator of the Facebook group "Atlanta Moms" a man who lives overseas?
- Atlanta Moms Group on Facebook
- Cybersecurity expert Ron Pierce with Trinity Solutions
- Dun & Bradstreet, which provides business data
Yes, the company that runs the Facebook page is based in Australia, and owned by a man.
WHAT WE FOUND
"Atlanta Moms Group" has a private page, with 18.4 thousand members. The public one filled with what looks like ads, has more than 16,000 members.
One of those members reached out to 11Alive after seeing chatter online about the administrator of the group. She wanted to remain anonymous.
“All the pictures that moms post are really personal to them, especially if it's like, 'What kind of rash is this?' It's not something that should be run by a guy… especially not in Georgia," she said
If you scroll down on the public Facebook page, a simple click will show you a company titled “On Topic Media PTY LTD” is responsible for the page, and that the manager is located in Australia and the Philippines.
Head on over to LinkedIn and you’ll see he is the CEO for that same company. It also says his location is the "Greater Sydney Area."
“The first thing that pops in my mind is trafficking, like, this would be the ideal situation," explained the mother. "Someone has the location of all these kids and their moms and when they're going to be there."
More research on the company shows it was founded in 2008. They manage many other websites, including more than a dozen mom groups in Australia.
According to Dun & Bradstreet, the business was registered in 2005, has five employees located in Victoria, Australia, and generates nearly $825,000 in sales.
Cybersecurity expert and President of Trinity Solutions Ron Pierce said they can make money off of what you post on pages.
“That group could be a company in Australia, but I guarantee you, they've got clients in Atlanta, and that information that's being put their own group is great marketing for those clients," Pierce said.
He urges people to remember that each time you post on Facebook – even in private groups – you’re giving up the rights to that information because it is public domain.
“They're getting direct consumer information," he said. "They're watching the posts, they're learning about the consumers, too. They can also harvest emails and information off of Facebook, in that private group. They can use it for marketing as well.”
The mother we spoke to saw other mothers picking up on this and confronted the administrators. She said they were kicked out of the group for speaking up while others decided to leave the page.
“I just think it's a red flag," she said. "It’s kind of scary."
11Alive tried reaching out to Jonathan and his company multiple ways and never heard back.
After messaging him, reporter Paola Suro even requested access to the page and was denied. Her mother then requested access and was accepted.
11Alive also reached out to Facebook and it said it is investigating the page and that it will "enforce against violations if we find them." We asked if this would be considered a violation and a spokesperson insisted they are still investigating the case, and referred us to their community standards.
"You've got to understand that when you post something on Facebook, even if it's a private group, it is considered public domain," explained Pierce. "So, you give up the rights to those pictures, you're giving up rights to the information, because it's considered in the public domain at this point."