According to data analyzed by NBC News, the brothers are behind five Facebook groups. The family is considered by many, even some conservatives, to be scam artists who makes money by selling memberships to their groups or mailing lists of those who sign up. Most of the groups they have created have similar names and the social media pages have organized at least 49 events, NBC News reported.
While NBC News said they found no evidence the Dorrs had made money off the data collected through the Facebook groups, Renee DiResta, the research manager at the Stanford Internet Observatory, said groups like this are common on social media in which organizers sell membership data for future political campaigns. “In this particular case, there’s real momentum from grassroots people who are angry,” DiResta told NBC News. “Recognizing that people are going to be searching for that, it provides an opportunity for someone who wants to piggyback on that outrage for, in this case, it seems like, outreach for future campaigns.”
Last week, a Facebook group, Wisconsinites Against Excessive Quarantine, set up by Ben Dorr, gained more than 900,000 members by the end of the week, The Post reported. “It’s time to OPEN OUR STATE and STOP Gov Evers’ Excessive Quarantine,” the group’s description read. “Politicians are on a power trip, controlling our lives, destroying our businesses, passing laws behind the cover of darkness and forcing us to hand over our freedoms and our livelihood!”
The other two brothers created Pennsylvanians Against Excessive Quarantine, Ohioans Against Excessive Quarantine, and New Yorkers Against Excessive Quarantine. Many in the groups questioned wearing masks and other recommendations made by health and state officials in addition to sharing posts, photos, and videos with misinformation on the pandemic.
Concerns that Facebook did not remove these groups encouraging individuals to break orders in place for public safety prompted Facebook to explain it did not remove the groups because such activity was not outlawed in the state. According to The Post, Facebook did not remove groups that called for “drive-in protests” but removed those involving protests planned for states like New Jersey and California. “Unless government prohibits the event during this time, we allow it to be organized on Facebook. For this same reason, events that defy government’s guidance on social distancing aren’t allowed on Facebook,” Andy Stone, a spokesman for Facebook told The Post.
Despite the risk of further spreading the virus these protests bring, Trump is encouraging people to go out and protest, claiming local officials have crossed the line. “If people feel that way, you’re allowed to protest,” Trump said Sunday. “Some governors have gone too far, some of the things that happened are maybe not so appropriate.”
Protests erupted across the country with many gaining attention for disrupting hospitals and preventing healthcare professionals from providing their services. In Michigan, at least one ambulance was blocked by protest traffic last week. Images of nurses and protesters went viral this week when protesters in Colorado were met with nurses and healthcare workers standing calmly in the street amid their drive-through protests. Many conservatives are arguing that protesting now is the same as when liberals and progressives protest year-round.
While Americans have the right to protest, they should not put the lives of others at risk doing so. There are multiple ways to protest; protesting during a deadly pandemic and against concerns for safety and social distancing is not the same as protesting when health concerns were not an issue.