Right-wing Twitter troll charged over 2016 US election scam, faces up to 10 years in prison

0:00
play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
  • A right-wing online influencer, ranked higher than some news sites going into the 2016 US election, was charged with spreading disinformation online.
  • Douglass Mackey, 31, is accused of publishing memes on Twitter that made false voting claims, targeted at Democratic voters.
  • He was charged with "conspiracy against rights" and faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.


New York – A right-wing social media influencer was charged on Wednesday with spreading disinformation online that may have prevented thousands of Hillary Clinton supporters from voting in the 2016 presidential election.

Douglass Mackey, 31, is accused of publishing memes on Twitter that falsely claimed Democratic voters could cast ballots by sending a text message to a specific phone number.

New York prosecutors claim that messages from at least 4 900 different phones were sent to the number in a vain attempt to cast votes for one of the candidates.

The prosecutors did not say which candidate, but it is clear it is Clinton, who lost to Donald Trump.

They say he got the idea from a message that falsely informed voters in Britain's Brexit referendum that they could cast their vote to remain in the European Union via text.

'Vote theft'

Mackey's alleged actions "amounted to nothing short of vote theft", William Sweeney of the FBI's New York office said in a statement.

Mackey was arrested in West Palm Beach, Florida on Wednesday morning.

US government prosecutors at the Brooklyn-based Eastern District of New York have charged Mackey with conspiracy against rights. He faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

Investigators say that Mackey's Twitter account, which was under the pseudonym Ricky Vaughn, had 58 000 followers. It published anti-Semitic and white nationalist posts.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Lab ranked Mackey as the 107th most important online influencer, bigger than some major news sites, going into the 2016 election.

Numerous studies have suggested that orchestrated fake news campaigns helped sway some voters a little over four years ago.


 

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Lockdown For
DAYS
HRS
MINS
Voting Booth
As South Africa faces down the third Covid-19 wave, how are you keeping your family safe ?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Staying at home, isolating and being careful
3% - 1233 votes
Sanitising and wearing masks when we go out
12% - 4773 votes
Going on as usual, we're not afraid of the virus
85% - 33696 votes
Vote
Rand - Dollar
14.03
+0.5%
Rand - Pound
19.92
+0.1%
Rand - Euro
17.12
+0.1%
Rand - Aus dollar
10.94
+0.1%
Rand - Yen
0.13
+0.3%
Gold
1,869.70
+0.2%
Silver
28.50
+1.1%
Palladium
2,927.15
+0.9%
Platinum
1,241.32
-0.2%
Brent Crude
69.46
+1.1%
Top 40
61,499
+0.5%
All Share
67,562
+0.5%
Resource 10
71,402
+1.0%
Industrial 25
83,919
-0.1%
Financial 15
12,726
+0.9%
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo