Douglass Mackey, also known as Ricky Vaughn, was sentenced to seven months in prison for engaging in trolling activities targeted at Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election.
Mackey had been facing a maximum of ten years imprisonment for crimes related to speech.
Douglass Mackey, the man “on trial for memes,” was sentenced to seven months in prison Wednesday for his efforts to trick Hillary Clinton voters into staying home on Election Day in 2016. @NikaSchoonover https://t.co/0u8YsjmGdG
— Courthouse News (@CourthouseNews) October 18, 2023
In January 2021, Douglass Mackey was indicted by federal authorities for allegedly using social media to disseminate false information in an effort to manipulate the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.
Dubbed “Ricky Vaughn” on Twitter, Mackey posted memes and trolled Hillary Clinton during her campaign.
In 2021, 34-year-old Mackey was arrested in West Palm Beach on one charge of conspiracy against rights.
According to the unsealed indictment, it was alleged that Mackey conspired with others on Twitter to encourage black people to cast their votes via text message a week before the 2016 election.
An image featuring a black woman in front of an “African Americans for President Hillary” sign and the caption “Avoid the Line. Vote from Home. Text ‘Hillary’ to 59925. Vote for Hillary and be a part of history” was tweeted by Mackey, leading more than 4,900 people to ‘cast their vote via text message.’
When Buzzfeed News sent a text message to the number provided, they received a response from Hillary Clinton’s campaign which redirected them to proper channels.
It is unclear how many people just sent a text out of curiosity without actually falling for the meme.
The most concerning aspect of the indictment is the criminalization of standard political discourse and dialogue.
“Starting in at least 2015, MACKEY participated in numerous Group DMs. These groups, which at times included dozens of individuals, and at times had overlapping membership, served as forums for the participants to share, among other things, their views concerning how best to influence the Election. Among other things, MACKEY and the members of these groups used the Group DMs to create, refine and share memes and hashtags that members of the groups would subsequently post and distribute.”
An example of the criminal behavior describes Mackey and his friends on Twitter joking around in private groups about trolling “shitlibs” with memes:
“For example, on or about December 22, 2015, MACKEY and his associates exchanged messaged in the Fed Free Hatechat relating to memes suggesting that certain voters were hiding their desire to vote for a Presidential candidate from on of the two main political parties (“Candidate 2”). MACKEY stated, using MACKEY Account 1, “It’s actually a great meme to spread, make all these shitlibs think they’re (sic) friends are secretly voting for (Candidate2)”. A participant in the group conversations, a Twitter user, described it as “perfect psyops” to which MACKEY later replied, “We’ve hit upon meme magic motherlode.” The next day, MACKEY used MACKEY Account 1 to retweet a tweet that contained one of the discussed memes with the following text: “If you need support, I am here for you #(Candidate 2)Closet.”
The federal government has criminalized political speech in order to prosecute Trump supporters.
This was evidenced when a Democratic activist posted the same tweet as Douglass Mackey, yet her tweet remains on X while only conservatives are being prosecuted.