Written by Hudson Crozier
What's happening: The trial of Doug Mackey, an online right-wing troll who faces ten years in prison for an alleged voter suppression conspiracy, began last week before a Brooklyn, New York jury. The Department of Justice's case centers around humorous tweets Mackey and his friends posted with false messages about the Hillary Clinton campaign during the 2016 election.
Examples: Under the alias “Ricky Vaughn,” Mackey posted a graphic telling viewers to text their vote to a phone number instead of visiting the polls. This sort of joke is common in politics; a post from a liberal Twitter user told Donald Trump supporters to “text” their vote on “Super Wednesday” and has not been charged. Another of Mackey's posts falsely stated that Clinton wanted to draft women into the military if elected.
The DOJ's case: Mackey was charged in 2021 with violating the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, which criminalizes any conspiracy “to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate a person” from voting. None of his posts were violent or threatening, but the DOJ accuses him of a “disinformation campaign” to “deprive” Americans of their right to vote by tricking them with the posts. Mackey's online “co-conspirator” who helped make the memes has pleaded guilty to the same charge and will testify against him.
Between the lines: Mackey's case is another example of President Joe Biden's DOJ twisting the original meaning of a law to prosecute conservatives for nonviolent expression protected by the Constitution, a trend that Upward News has tracked in January 6 trials. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) sent a letter telling Attorney General Merrick Garland that the case is “incredibly dangerous” and that he should resign. But the judge sympathizes with the government's perspective, saying Mackey's meme-posting was “illegal conduct” comparable to “treason.”