Lots of people like to have fun on the internet, and with meme culture booming greater each year, it’s no surprise that pranksters and “meme lords” have decided to take their powers of creation to one of the world’s biggest election cycles; the US Presidential election.
However, for Douglass Mackey, aka “Ricky Vaughn” as he’s known online, a little bit of light-hearted trolling with some memes based around Hillary Clinton’s election campaign is enough to earn him a massive 10 years in federal prison.
So how does an individual get 10 years for trolling online?
Douglass Mackey was arrested in West Palm Beach and was indicted on Wednesday for allegedly using his social media platform to “spread election disinformation”.
He faces 10 years in prison under one charge of “conspiracy against rights”, as the federal authorities ramp up their agenda against freedom of speech.
So, what did Mackey actually do?
According to the unsealed indictment released on Wednesday, Mackey conspired with some friends using Twitter to convince black Hillary voters to cast their votes via a text message to Hilary’s campaign number.
The Eastern District of New York said in the indictment that Mackey posted on Twitter a picture of a black woman in front of a sign that read “African Americans for President Hillary”, one week before the election was to take place.
The image was then captioned with the following statement: “Avoid the Line. Vote from Home. Text *‘Hillary’ to 59925. Vote for Hillary and be a part of history”*.
It’s believed that nearly 5,000 prospective Hilary voters fell for the troll, texting “Hillary” to the 59925 number, which was an official number from the Hillary Clinton campaign.
Hillary’s team didn’t fall for it, however…
Everyone’s “favorite” media outlet, Buzzfeed News, decided to test out the troll to see what would happen.
They texted “Hillary” to the number provided and actually received an automated response from the Clinton campaign, which replied that the “advert” they saw was not endorsed by the “Hillary For America” campaign and instead redirected them to an alternative HFA number.
So, if the Clinton campaign redirected people who fell for the prank to their actual HFA number, then what harm was committed by Mackey and his friends?
The simple answer?
The Federal authorities referenced messages in a group that allegedly had Mackey and his friends plotting in December 2015 to confuse voters and influence the election, despite the chat containing very serious messages such as this one posted by Mackey himself: “We’ve hit upon meme magic motherlode”.
So, Mackey now faces 10 years in prison, all for a light-hearted troll that was fixed instantly by the Clinton campaign.
Is this just the federal government attempting to clamp down on free speech and search for reasons to lock up Republican voters? The evidence does indeed swing that way!