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An influencer -who was behind a troll account supporting former President Trump- was charged with, “election interference stemming from voter disinformation campaign,” according to the Justice Department.
According to the DOJ report, “A Florida man was arrested this morning on charges that he conspired with others prior to the 2016 U.S. presidential election to use various social media platforms to spread misinformation intended to deprive people of their constitutional right to vote.”
The influencer is Douglass Mackey, aka Ricky Vaughn, 31 years old, from West Palm Beach, and was charged through a criminal complaint in the Eastern District of New York. In addition, he “was arrested this morning in West Palm Beach and made his first appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce E. Reinhart of the Southern District of Florida.”
“According to the allegations in the complaint, the defendant took advantage of a social media platform to infringe on one of the most basic and sacred rights guaranteed by the Constitution: the right to vote,” said Nicholas L. McQuaid, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division. “This complaint underscores the department’s commitment to investigate and prosecute those who would undermine citizens’ right to vote.”
The influencer posted memes with “disinformation”
Most media outlets have identified the influencer as an “alt-right troll.” He had previously posted anti-Semitic tweets from his Twitter user. For example, the conservative New York Post reported that he was “Alt-right Twitter troll ‘Ricky Vaughn’ arrested for voter disinformation.”
“Mackey allegedly conspired with others to use social media messaging to encourage blacks to cast their ballots via text messages so their ballots wouldn’t count, according to federal prosecutors in Brooklyn,” the Post explained.
“The alleged scheme “amounted to nothing less than vote stealing,” said William Sweeney, head of the FBI’s New York City office, where the charges were filed. “It is illegal behavior and contributes to the erosion of public confidence in our electoral processes,” reported The Associated Press news agency.
However, beyond Mackey’s political and ideological preferences, there is a part of the story that, until now, only anchorman Tucker Carlson dared to denounce on mainstream media: the disinformation coming from troll Ricky Vaughn was spread through memes.
The famed anchorman dropped a couple of phrases in his speech that raise doubts about how much freedom of expression is being respected in the country and, criticizing the discourse of the current authorities and wondering where the unity professed by the Democrats is to be found.
“A week ago they were talking to us about unity, remember? What we didn’t know at the time is that, what they meant was that all the powerful should unite against the rest of the country. ‘Unity’ actually meant ‘oligarchy.'”
“Yes, memes. Online taunts. Online taunts are now a crime when directed at the wrong people. Doug Mackey hurt feelings and that landed him in jail,” the anchor denounced.
“What you may be wondering, does a case like this mean for the 1st Amendment? Well, it means he’s effectively suspended. He can be arrested for saying the wrong things,” Tucker argued.
On the other hand, Michael Tracey, a British American television producer, wrote on his Twitter account that “Democrats have only controlled the government for a week and pro-Trump online trolls are already being charged with criminal ‘conspiracies’ related to posting memes on Twitter in 2016.”
The situation brings into focus something fundamental in the today’s scene: to what extent can a person face penalties of up to 10 years in prison for posting misinformation? We will have to wait and see how the Douglass Mackey influencer case ends and what precedent it sets for the future of the United States.
Emmanuel Alejandro Rondón is a journalist at El American specializing in the areas of American politics and media analysis // Emmanuel Alejandro Rondón es periodista de El American especializado en las áreas de política americana y análisis de medios de comunicación.