MEME TRIAL: Defendant says he wasn't committing 'election interference', was simply trying for viral meme

"Whatever your reaction when you hear his views ... whether he was a great thinker or a neanderthal caveman, you will see that none of it is proof of a criminal conspiracy."

Hannah Nightingale Washington DC

On Monday, attorneys gave their opening arguments in the trial of internet meme maker Douglass Mackey, also known as Rickey Vaughn, with his lawyer Andrew Frisch telling a federal jury that Mackey wasn’t looking to trick voters when he posted Hillary Clinton memes in 2016 telling supporters to "vote from home" via text messaging.

Frisch said that Mackey was merely attempting to go viral, according to the New York Daily News, stating that Mackey was "sh*t-posting," or "stuff-posting" as he told the jury.

"It means what it says — he was posting stuff," Frisch said. "A lot of it was online trash-talking. Juvenile, sure, and some of it was vulgar."

"Whatever your reaction when you hear his views ... whether he was a great thinker or a neanderthal caveman, you will see that none of it is proof of a criminal conspiracy."

According to Rolling Stone, Frisch argued that people had begun texting the number only after media outlets began covering the meme. He noted that two people texted "Hillary for prison" to the number.

Federal prosecutors claimed that Mackey worked with fellow meme makers to create the Twitter posts and make them as real as possible.

"This wasn’t about changing votes. This was about vaporizing votes, making them disappear," said Assistant US Attorney Turner Buford.

"The number was real and set up to receive incoming messages," he explained. "The release of these fake campaign ads was timed to flood the internet before Election Day."

Mackey posted the memes on November 1, a week before the election, and Frisch said that the meme’s message was "ludicrous to anyone with a basic knowledge of how presidential elections work," the New York Daily Mail reported.

One of the memes featured a photo of Hillary Clinton, with the text "save time, avoid the line." At the bottom of the meme was fine print that read: "Paid for by Hillary Clinton for president. Must be 18 years or older to vote. Must be a legal citizen of the United States. Vote by text not available in Guam, Puerto Rico, Alaska or Hawaii." Federal authorities said that nearly 5,000 voters fell for the meme.

On November 3, Mackey posted, "That feeling when you haphazardly post a meme and it winds up on cable television."

A man going only by the online name "Microchip" took the stand, a co-conspirator-turned-cooperating witness for the prosecution. 

When asked whether he thought that voting via text is a valid way of voting, he replied, "not at all," Southern Poverty Law Center Senior Investigative Reporter Michael Edison Hayden wrote on Twitter.

When asked why he posted so frequently in 2016, Microchip replied, "to destroy the reputation of Hillary Clinton."

In regards to a question on his handling of the John Podesta emails, in which he posted thousands of times per week, Microchip responded "my talent is to make things weird and strange, so there’s controversy."


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