The suspect behind the right-wing Twitter troll account "Ricky Vaughn" was arrested by federal authorities Wednesday for spreading "disinformation" through memes during the 2016 presidential race in an alleged "election interference" scheme to limit black voter turnout.
31-year-old Douglass Mackey is accused of conspiring with others to encourage black voters through social media to cast their ballots via text message. If convicted of the one conspiracy against rights charge, Mackey could be imprisoned for up to 10 years.
The acting assistant attorney general of the Justice Department's criminal division, Nicholas McQuaid, stated on Jan. 27 that Mackey "infringe[d] one the of most basic and sacred rights guaranteed by the Constitution: the right to vote."
Seth DuCharme, the acting US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, proclaimed that there is "no place in public discourse for lies and misinformation to defraud citizens of their right to vote."
"With Mackey’s arrest, we serve notice that those who would subvert the democratic process in this manner cannot rely on the cloak of Internet anonymity to evade responsibility for their crimes," DuCharme added. "They will be investigated, caught and prosecuted to the full extent of the law."
William Sweeney, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s New York Field office insisted that Mackey's actions "amounted to nothing short of vote theft."
"It is illegal behavior and contributes to the erosion of the public’s trust in our electoral processes," Sweeney maintained noting that "[p]rotecting every American citizen's right to cast a legitimate vote is a key to the success of our republic."
Many on the political right questioned the validity of their arguments. The federal government alleges that Mackey's memes deprived American citizens of their right to vote. If this case proceeds, then why hasn't the FBI arrested the numerous other left-wing social media figures who are just as guilty of voter suppression?
Twitter-verified comedian Kristina Wong's political sketch from the same election year remains online and posted to Twitter with over 680,000 views.
Wong—in the iconic red "Make America Great Again" hat—told Trump supporters to also skip the poll lines and text in their votes. "Text votes are legit. Or vote tomorrow on Super Wednesday!" she tweeted on Nov. 8, 2016.
"Why would you go back and vote in another rigged election?" Project Lincoln, the anti-Trump group of Democratic operatives disguised as disaffected GOP members, blasted across social media platforms at the beginning of January.
The Lincoln Project told their followers "#DontVote for #RINOs" like Republican incumbent Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler in the Georgia runoffs on Jan. 5.
The organization added #StopTheSteal, a widespread right-wing hashtag that claims that Democrats stole the 2020 presidential election.
"Will @TheJusticeDept prosecute the Lincoln Project for their paid voter suppression disinformation campaign in the Georgia special election?" questioned One America News Network's Jack Posobiec, adding that even Facebook took the advertisement down after the propaganda was sent to hundreds of thousands of potential voters.
Facebook removed the ad on Jan. 4 when the social media platform found that the post violated the site's Advertising Policies. In an email sent to Newsweek, a spokesperson for Facebook wrote: "We don't allow ads that delegitimize the outcome of the election so we're rejecting these ads for violating this policy."
According to Facebook's Ad Library, "Ads that portray voting or census participation as useless/meaningless and/or advise users not to vote or participate in a census" as well as "ads that delegitimize any lawful method or process of voting or voting tabulation" are not permissible content.
In the video, the Never Trump super PAC featured several rallies in Georgia and spotlighted former Trump lawyer Lin Wood as he discouraged local voters from casting their ballots in the state's Senate races. "We're not gonna vote on your damn machines made in China," the attorney stated on camera, alluding to the Dominion Voting Systems machines.
"The GOP wants us to hold the line and vote for RINO's [Republican In Name Only] like David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler in the Georgia Senate," far-right pundit Nick Fuentes can also be heard in the video.
Facebook estimated that the sponsored ad paid for by Project Lincoln reached anywhere from 100,000 to half a million users while the amount spent ranged from $10,000 to $15,000 at the time of the post's deactivation.
Other left-wing Twitter accounts launched similar disinformation campaigns, alleging that President Donald Trump wanted his supporters to not to vote in the Senate elections to "break the algorithm," which was "never designed for unheard of levels of GOP non-participation."
Princeton professor Sam Wang tweeted in late December that Georgia Republicans were asked to "#BoycottGeorgia" to help prove voter fraud.
By not voting, "there will be so few [votes] that GOP vote totals will go negative...The fraud will be so obvious, SCOTUS can then invalidate ," Wang quoted the circulated "Boycott to Fight Back" infographic.
In March 2019, Wang co-authored an amicus brief with the Supreme Court that argued that North Carolina's legislative map was a partisan gerrymander designed to "burden the representational rights" of state Democrats.
The ultra-liberal ReallyAmerican PAC raised nearly $600,000 to place 50 billboards in rural counties across the Peach State, slamming Loeffler and Perdue for their alleged underperformance during the 2020 general election with the message: "Perdue and Loeffler didn’t deliver for Trump. Don’t deliver for them."
The organization, posed as pro-Trump, positioned via Dec. 1 press release that Trump supporters and Democrats possessed "shared interest" in seeing the GOP pair lose. ReallyAmerican PAC claimed the commonality lied in defeating the "Washington insiders" who "happen to be trying to destroy Trump."
The statement noted that if the incumbents senators won their respective races, Trump would become the "only Republican to lose Georgia in a generation." Their victory would be "delivering Trump and MAGA a serious political defeat."
Internet billionaire Reid Hoffman, the co-founder of LinkedIn, apologized in December 2018 for funding one group linked to an effort that spread disinformation during the previous year's Alabama special Senate election.
Hoffman invested $750,000 in American Engagement Technologies (AET), the Washington Post reported. AET, in turn, provided funding to Texas-based research firm New Knowledge.
The Hoffman-funded group is alleged to have used Facebook and Twitter to undermine support for Republican nominee Roy Moore and boost Democratic victor Doug Jones. The initiative created misleading Facebook pages to persuade Alabama conservatives to not vote for Moore.
Hoffman addressed the alleged operation, known as Project Birmingham, in his public apology, seeking to distance himself from the online tactics. "I want to be unequivocal: there is absolutely no place in our democracy for manipulating facts or using falsehoods to gain political advantage," he wrote on Medium.
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