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Election Meddling? Right-Wing US Influencer Faces Jail for... a Meme

CC0 / / Hammer court judge justice
Hammer court judge justice  - Sputnik International, 1920, 01.04.2023
The 33-year-old defendant, who is also known as Ricky Vaughn on Twitter, rejects the accusations, insisting that he was just trying to create a viral meme ahead of the 2016 US presidential election.
In the first-ever meme trial, a self-styled right-wing influencer from Florida, Douglass Mackey, has been found guilty on charges of election interference by a federal court in the Eastern District of New York.

The 33-year-old, also known as Ricky Vaughn on Twitter, faces charges of "conspiring with others in advance of the 2016 US presidential election to use various social media platforms to disseminate misinformation designed to deprive individuals of their constitutional right to vote."

The counts stem from a meme Mackey posted on Twitter in 2016, jokingly encouraging supporters of then-Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to vote by text. The White House has not commented on the matter yet.
Federal prosecutors claimed that the defendant worked with fellow meme makers to create the Twitter posts and make them as realistic as possible.
Assistant US Attorney Turner Buford said that "This wasn’t about changing votes. This was about vaporizing votes, making them disappear."
"The number was real and set up to receive incoming messages. The release of these fake campaign ads was timed to flood the internet before Election Day," he added.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) in turn argued that Mackey’s actions constituted election interference despite being unable to provide evidence that anyone on Twitter was deceived by the 33-year-old's meme.
Mackey responded by asserting that he was simply trying to create a viral meme, and that other Hillary Clinton supporters had posted similar memes encouraging Trump supporters to vote by text without being arrested or charged by the DOJ.
The defendant, who was arrested in January 2021, could face up to 10 years behind bars. His sentencing is scheduled for August 16. Mackey had about 58,000 Twitter followers in 2016, when he was ranked by the MIT Media Lab as the 107th-most important influencer of the then-upcoming presidential election.
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