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Far-right figure Douglass Mackey, also known on social media as Ricky Vaughn, was arrested this week and charged in connection with what the Justice Department says was an exploitation of his platform in an effort to infringe on citizens' voting rights.
A criminal complaint on Mackey was unsealed on Wednesday in federal court in Brooklyn. He is charged with conspiring with others ahead of the 2016 presidential election to use multiple social media platforms to disseminate misinformation designed to deprive individuals of their constitutional right to vote.
Per the complaint, which has been viewed by Complex, Mackey had 58,000 Twitter followers in 2016 and was determined (at the time) to have more influence on the then-impending election than other prominent voices including Stephen Colbert and NBC News.
"Protecting every American citizen's right to cast a legitimate vote is a key to the success of our republic," William F. Sweeney Jr., Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI's New York Field Office, said in a press release on Wednesday. "What Mackey allegedly did to interfere with this process—by soliciting voters to cast their ballots via text—amounted to nothing short of vote theft. It is illegal behavior and contributes to the erosion of the public's trust in our electoral processes. He may have been a powerful social media influencer at the time, but a quick internet search of his name today will reveal an entirely different story."
Douglass Mackey, aka far-right influencer "Ricky Vaughn," has been charged in Brooklyn Fed with 2016 election interference, with a scheme to limit black turnout.
The complaint cites this meme and BuzzFeed story. https://t.co/gN6AzrfSVW
Story soon @LambeJerry, @LawCrimeNews. pic.twitter.com/Z7Var5tXgU
— Adam Klasfeld (@KlasfeldReports) January 27, 2021
As outlined in the complaint, Mackey—between the months of September and November of that year—conspired with others on social media (including on Twitter) to spread false messages about voting via text message and/or via social media. This disinformation is said to have been spread through a coordinated campaign consisting of tweets, memes, and other forms.
In a complaint and affidavit in support of an arrest warrant, also viewed by Complex, Mackey is reported to have used the Twitter handles @Ricky_Vaughn99, @TheRickyVaughn, and @ReturnoofRV. The first account was established in January of 2014 and was used through early October of 2016. The second account was used for about a month through Nov. 2 of that year, followed by the use of @ReturnofRV between the dates of Nov. 3 and Nov. 14, 2016.
31-year-old Mackey was arrested Wednesday morning in West Palm Beach. He then made an initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce E. Reinhart of the Southern District of Florida, where his lawyer was Kristy Militello, a federal public defender in Florida. He's being released on a $50,000 bond.
If convicted of the conspiracy against rights-focused charge, Mackey faces as much as 10 years behind bars.
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