• Disarm Disinfo

Running for Office? Buy your domains.

On June 29, 2019 the New York Times published the article, "Trump Consultant Is Trolling Democrats With Biden Site that Isn't Biden's." Just the day before a friend had reached out regarding a similar Kamala Harris parody (aka slander) site, asking how it could be taken down. In both of these cases, it was the .info domain that was used. Apparently, they were just left out there for anyone to purchase.

There are also parody sites for Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. The domains were cheap to purchase, the sites easy to create and designed to exploit pre-existing fissures as well as rumors about the candidates.

According to the article, the creator behind these sites is not a Russian, but the American Patrick Mauldin who runs a Republican political consulting firm, supporting Trump.

"In addition to Mr. Biden, Mr. Mauldin has anonymously set up faux campaign websites for at least three other Democratic front-runners. “Millionaire Bernie” seeks to tar Mr. Sanders as a greedy socialist; “Elizabeth Warren for Chief” mocks her claim of Native American ancestry; and “Kamala Harris for Arresting the People” highlights her work as a prosecutor who, the site says, “put parents in jail for children skipping school — and laughed about it.”

Interesting fact: Mr. Mauldin works in Austin. Same town as Donald Trump's former Social Media Director and now Campaign Manager, Brad Parscale. During the 2016 Mauldin's company, Vici Media was hired by the Trump Social Media and Brad Parscale is one of a total of two on his testimonials page. While he is claiming no direct connection to the campaign, that's quite a coincidence.

Vicimedia's testimonial page

Mauldin got some of his ideas for the content from Reddit groups such as r/The_Donald, and then pushed the sites to the same Reddit groups for amplification. The Biden site was so successful - among Democrats who support other candidates - he even sold faux Biden t-shirts. It appears that Mauldin has setup shop on some of the others.

What are some lessons here?

Lesson #1 - If you are considering running for office (even considering) purchase the range of your name domains. Domains cost between $2.99 and $12.99 a year from Namecheap or GoDaddy. It's easy. In addition to .com and .org, purchase: .net, .info, .us, .co.

Lesson #2 - If you are a Democrat and even if you are vehemently supporting one candidate over another, don't push this crap. It is as good as pushing Trump advertising.