A family-run network of pro-gun groups is behind five of the largest Facebook groups dedicated to protesting the shelter-in-place restrictions.
…The groups were set up by four brothers — Chris, Ben, Aaron and Matthew Dorr — and have amassed more than 200,000 members collectively, including in states where they don’t reside.
…The Dorr brothers are known in conservative circles for running pro-gun and anti-abortion rights Facebook groups that bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars annually by antagonizing establishment conservative leaders and activists.
Their usual method is to attack established conservative groups from the right, including the National Rifle Association, and then make money by selling memberships in their groups or selling mailing lists of those who sign up.
…The Facebook groups started by the Dorrs each promote state-specific websites, which were registered with the same private registrar, and use similar language in their descriptions.
…The websites, such as ReOpenPA.com and ReOpenMN.com, were initially shared by the same network of pro-gun and anti-vaccination sites, [some of which were not in the same] region.
…The groups repeatedly warn users not to use off-site petition platforms like Change.org [which would not feed data back to the groups’ originators.]
…Their groups drive users to petitions on Dorr-registered websites, which collect users’ email and home addresses.
…This sort of Facebook activity is common, DiResta said, and it allows for a small group with money and media manipulation skills to simulate the appearance of a much larger movement. It also allows the group to harvest email addresses for future political campaigns, which can be bought and sold.
…DiResta said the tactics are often used to capitalize on legitimate political activism.
…”It provides an opportunity for someone who wants to piggyback on that outrage for, in this case, it seems like, outreach for future campaigns.”
A sliver of what’s out there.