Anti-Hillary Election ‘Meme’ Case Could Open The Floodgates To More Gov’t Censorship, Legal Experts Warn
Douglass Mackey’s Friday conviction for an election “meme” he posted on his account with over 58,000 followers has legal experts raising alarm bells about its impact on free speech.
A jury convicted Mackey for conspiring to deprive others of their right to vote through a meme he posted during the 2016 election, which advertised a way to vote for Hilary Clinton via text message. First Amendment experts say Mackey’s conviction is based on an expansive interpretation of a Conspiracy Against Rights law that could impact other forms of speech, from satire to lies in election campaigns.
While the First Amendment allows for punishing fraud, “it’s not clear Mackey’s actions qualify as fraud in a legal sense,” Aaron Terr, director of Public Advocacy for the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
“Fraud generally requires a speaker to make a false statement to obtain money or something of material value from the injured party, who relies on the false statement to their detriment,” he said. Even if Mackey’s actions did qualify, Terr also noted that the Justice Department indicted him using a statute that goes beyond fraudulent speech.
“It criminalizes conspiring to ‘injure’ or ‘oppress’ someone in the exercise of any constitutional right,” he said. “If that vague language covers speech that deceives people into voting improperly, it raises the troubling possibility of the government also applying it to allegedly false statements about political issues or candidates that discourage people from voting, not just misrepresentations about the logistics of exercising the franchise. Anyone who cares about free speech should be concerned about how the government might abuse this vague and broadly worded law to chill the spirited public discourse on which our democracy depends.”
After being charged with Conspiracy Against Rights, Mackey faces up to ten years in prison. Eugene Volokh, Gary T. Schwartz Distinguished Professor of Law at UCLA, told the DCNF there are two primary routes he could take for an appeal.
Spot the difference…
Biden DOJ Convicts Man for Anti-Hillary Memes, Faces up to 10 Years In Prison
Biden’s DOJ has found Douglass Mackey, better known for his online persona “Ricky Vaughn,” guilty in the trial concerning his anti-Hillary memes.
Mackey, 33, could face up to 10 years in prison for a meme he posted on Twitter one week before the 2016 election.
“Mackey has been found guilty by a jury of his peers of attempting to deprive individuals from exercising their sacred right to vote for the candidate of their choice in the 2016 Presidential Election,” stated United States Attorney Breon Peace.
The meme was reportedly an image of a black woman in front of an “African Americans for President Hillary” sign, according to The Gateway Pundit.
“Emblazoned on the picture was the message: ‘Avoid the Line. Vote from Home. Text ‘Hillary’ to 59925. Vote for Hillary and be a part of history,’” reports TGP.
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According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of New York, at least 4,900 people texted “Hillary” to the meme phone number.
Neo-Nazi Leader ‘ilovehate5150’ Charged for Threatening to Kill Journalist
An American neo-Nazi who went by online names such as “King ov Wrath” and “ilovehate5150” has been arrested for allegedly threatening to kill a reporter who was covering his terrorist organization.
Nicholas Welker was taken into custody by the FBI Tuesday after allegedly helping to create an internet meme that explicitly threatened the life of a U.S. journalist and then sending it directly to the reporter on Twitter. Welker has been charged with conspiracy to transmit threatening communications.
The reporter nor the outlet is not named in the court documents.
Welker was an alleged leader within the international neo-Nazi group, Feuerkrieg Division (FKD), according to court documents. In addition to his other pseudonyms, he also allegedly went by “DankTree2316.”
The Feuerkrieg Division is a now-disbanded neo-Nazi group that was openly accelerationist—meaning it wanted to hasten the collapse of society to build a white ethnostate from the ashes—and had ties to a plethora of violent crimes committed by young men, many of them minors. Members of the group have been charged with child abuse, assault, and plotting violent actions.
Like many other online neo-Nazi groups, the Feuerkrieg Division loves to use memes as propaganda. So when the group allegedly felt threatened by a reporter looking into them, Welker and his fellow neo-Nazis went to work.
The piece of propaganda in particular showed a photo of the journalist with a gun pointed at their head with messages “race traitor,” “journalist fuck off,” and ”you have been warned.” The meme also contained their name and place of employment. Welker allegedly had asked another neo-Nazi to create it and when he saw his vision come to life he responded with an emoji featuring a smiling face covered in hearts.
Welker then allegedly sent the threats directly to the reporter on Twitter asking him if he’s seen their latest work. According to the court documents, an FBI agent was able to ascertain Welker’s identity because of the work of antifascist researchers and remarkably sloppy operational security. After antifascist researchers outted Welker, he confirmed it within the Feuerkrieg Division chatrooms. A month later, he followed up by writing: “Nicholas Hazen Welker Santa Clara County Department of Corrections. That’s my information[.] In case I go missing”, before providing a date of birth.
The Department of Justice described the Feuerkrieg Division as a racially motivated violent extremist group that had “cells in multiple states.” The group took inspiration from Atomwaffen Division and was expressively accelerationist in nature. Like others within this community of groups, they drew from an aesthetic that embraced terrorism and violence.
The Feuerkrieg Division was initially founded in the Balkans by a 13-year-old Estonia boy who was going by “Commander.” The group became known for the violent actions of its members, death threats, and propaganda. In 2019, U.K. police arrested one member for plotting a mass shooting attack and sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl. One British teenager who was a leader pleaded guilty to 12 terrorism charges in 2021, making him one of Britain’s youngest convicted terrorists. The group was declared a terrorist organization by the U.K. in 2020.
Like other groups in this community, the Feuerkrieg Division had ties to the Order of Nine Angles, a satanic neo-Nazi group connected to child abuse and violent crimes.
MEME TRIAL: Defendant says he wasn’t committing ‘election interference’, was simply trying for viral meme
On Monday, attorneys gave their opening arguments in the trial of internet meme maker Douglass Mackey, also known as Rickey Vaughn, with his lawyer Andrew Frisch telling a federal jury that Mackey wasn’t looking to trick voters when he posted Hillary Clinton memes in 2016 telling supporters to “vote from home” via text messaging.
Frisch said that Mackey was merely attempting to go viral, according to the New York Daily News, stating that Mackey was “sh*t-posting,” or “stuff-posting” as he told the jury.
“It means what it says — he was posting stuff,” Frisch said. “A lot of it was online trash-talking. Juvenile, sure, and some of it was vulgar.”
“Whatever your reaction when you hear his views … whether he was a great thinker or a neanderthal caveman, you will see that none of it is proof of a criminal conspiracy.”
According to Rolling Stone, Frisch argued that people had begun texting the number only after media outlets began covering the meme. He noted that two people texted “Hillary for prison” to the number.
Federal prosecutors claimed that Mackey worked with fellow meme makers to create the Twitter posts and make them as real as possible.
“This wasn’t about changing votes. This was about vaporizing votes, making them disappear,” said Assistant US Attorney Turner Buford.
“The number was real and set up to receive incoming messages,” he explained. “The release of these fake campaign ads was timed to flood the internet before Election Day.”
Mackey posted the memes on November 1, a week before the election, and Frisch said that the meme’s message was “ludicrous to anyone with a basic knowledge of how presidential elections work,” the New York Daily Mail reported.
Biden DOJ Crusade to Jail Young Man for Anti-Hillary Memes Just Got Much Uglier
Last month, Revolver profiled the Biden Administration’s persecution of former Twitter anon Doug Mackey, who was a famous pro-Trump voice back in 2016 under the moniker of Ricky Vaughn.
For those whose memory is foggy, a quick review: In the late stages of the 2016 race, Mackey posted several memes, designed to resemble Hillary Clinton campaign images, claiming that supporters could vote by simply texting a phone number.
The memes were a Twitter-generation version of the common joke about telling one’s political opponents to turn out for the election next Wednesday. But, in an unprecedented move, the Biden Administration says Mackey violated the Ku Klux Klan Act by systematically acting to strip Americans of their civil rights. The KKK Act was passed to prevent literal assaults and terrorism that prevented black Americans from voting, but now the DOJ’s prosecutors say it applies to satirical online speech — they say Mackey broke the law, even though they can’t produce a single person who failed to vote due to Mackey’s stunt.
(By the way, you can donate to Mackey’s legal defense here or here or here).
All of that is bad enough, but newly-unsealed documents released on Wednesday reveal new, sinister depths to the DOJ’s agenda.
Last fall, we warned about a new tool in the arsenal of weapons used by the regime to justify censorship and rolling back the basic rights of Americans. With this new tool, corrupt journalists like Taylor Lorenz can dox, harass, and lie about anyone they want and enjoy total immunity from criticism. Why? Well, if you dare to criticize a journalist like Lorenz, someone, somewhere, might become outraged and decide to commit an act of violence. With this remarkable censorship tool, the media’s attack dog journalists are magically absolved from any criticism because some nut job, somewhere, maybe, at sometime, might act violently upon this criticism.
The tool goes by the name “stochastic terrorism.”
Memes tools of terrorism: University of Nebraska-Omaha leads international discussion
Those viral online imitations — memes, as they’re called — can be more than just funny or annoying.
They can be terrorizing.
“A click, a save, a retweet…yeah, a like, that was one of the techniques we learned about today in the panel,” said Gina Ligon, director of the National Counterterrorism, Innovation, Technology and Education Center (NCITE). “Even liking them can alert a terrorist you’re sympathetic to their ideals.”
She’s referring to Thursday’s international panel discussing terrorists’ use of memes. More than 200 government officials and members of the public joined online.
“I first started studying them when ISIS was using them to recruit English speakers,” Ligon said. “They would do memes with ISIS fighters with kittens, and they would spread like wildfire online because they were so desperate to have a kitten with an ISIS fighter…and now, one of the reasons we held this, after the Buffalo attack this summer…that shooter had a ton of memes in his [posts].”
“We’re not just concerned about violent memes, we’re concerned about how violent memes might impact as violence in real life,” said NCITE researcher and panelist Kat Parsons.
Parsons is one of more than 50 NCITE researchers at universities across the nation. She shared some of her current studies into how memes can be used to spread violent beliefs. She was joined on the online panel by Oliver Goodman of U-K- based Moonshot, which “works to develop technologies and methodologies to expose threats, disrupt malicious actors, and protect vulnerable audiences online” as well as Arthur Bradley, the open source intelligence manager at Tech Against Terrorism.
Most Important First Amendment Case You’ve Never Heard Of: Biden Regime Tries to Toss a Young Man in Jail for 10 Years for Anti-Hillary Memes
Douglass Mackey is alleged to be one of the many anonymous Twitter users who made the 2016 election so different, so memorable, and so important.
Like other anonymous internet memesmiths (anons), Mackey had no external reason that anyone should care what he said. He held no office. He had no byline at an elite publication. He had no vast pool of wealth that conferred legitimacy, deserved or undeserved, on what he had to say.
Mackey’s notability, like that of Bronze Age Pervert or Libs of TikTok, came exclusively from what he had to say, and that people found it funny and compelling. Over the summer and fall of 2016, Mackey allegedly went by the nom-de-tweet Ricky Vaughn (after Charlie Sheen’s character in Major League) and collected tens of thousands of followers who found him funny and compelling. Mackey was not single-handedly responsible for getting Donald Trump elected. But the work he allegedly did along with dozens of others is what made Trump’s victory possible. An MIT analysis estimated that Ricky Vaughn was a bigger influence on the 2016 election than NBC News.
But for the regime, the specter of anonymous individuals making the system tremble was too much. And so, for more than two years, the regime has been battling to send Mackey to prison.
You might not know much about Mackey’s case. It’s far less notorious than the January 6 prosecutions, or the murder trial of Kyle Rittenhouse. But in terms of how much the speech matters for American liberty, it is as important as either of those — perhaps more so.
In January 2021, shortly after the January 6 incident inaugurated a national anti-MAGA crackdown, the Department of Justice charged Mackey with “conspiring … to deprive individuals of their constitutional right to vote.”
Mackey’s offense? Illegal memes.
Rep. Adam Schiff’s staffers repeatedly asked Twitter to censor memes
The latest batch of Twitter Files, released on Friday by independent journalist Matt Taibbi, showed that Rep. Adam Schiff’s office repeatedly contacted Twitter requesting the removal of posts critical of Joe Biden and staff at Schiff’s office.
“Staff of House Democrat @AdamSchiff wrote to Twitter quite often, asking that tweets be taken down,” Taibbi wrote. “This important use of taxpayer resources involved an ask about a ‘Peter Douche’ parody photo of Joe Biden. The DNC made the same request.”
Taibbi said that Schiff’s office pestered Twitter to remove the parody photo after former President Donald Trump retweeted it.
“To its credit, Twitter refused to remove it, with Trust and Safety chief Yoel Roth saying it had obvious ‘humorous intent’ and ‘any reasonable observer’ – apparently, not a Schiff staffer – could see it was doctored,” Taibbi wrote. “Schiff staffer Jeff Lowenstein didn’t give up, claiming there was a ‘slippery slope concern here.’”
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