Social media will rot your brain: Douglass Mackey sentenced to 7 months for 2016 election interference

October 18, 2023 Rob Abruzzese
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Social media influencer Douglass Mackey, aka “Ricky Vaughn,” was slapped with a seven-month prison sentence on Wednesday for scheming to thwart voters in the 2016 presidential election. 

The sentence was handed down by U.S. District Judge Ann M. Donnelly, marking the end of a three-week trial that saw Mackey convicted in March 2023.

Mackey weaponized his Twitter platform, where he had amassed around 58,000 followers, to spread fraudulent voting information. Aiming to undermine the electoral process, Mackey disseminated deceptive messages that falsely claimed supporters of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton could cast their votes via text or social media.

“One of the foundational rights we hold as Americans, a right that many fought so hard to obtain, is the right to vote,” said Breon Peace, the U.S. attorney for the EDNY. “The defendant weaponized disinformation in a dangerous scheme to stop targeted groups, including Black and Brown people and women, from participating in our democracy.”

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In 2016, Mackey was a significant player in the social media arena, with an MIT Media Lab analysis ranking him as a major influencer in the presidential election. He manipulated his influence by conspiring with other Twitter users and members of online groups to spread fraudulent voting methods.

The false information included tweets containing deceptive images encouraging supporters of Hillary Clinton to “Avoid the Line. Vote from Home” by texting “Hillary” to a specified number. 

Mackey also tweeted fraudulent voting information in Spanish that mimicked official Clinton campaign materials. Thousands fell for the scam, sending texts to the fraudulent number before and on Election Day 2016.

The 33-year-old West Palm Beach resident now faces incarceration for his role in this audacious attempt to subvert the 2016 election.


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