Social media personality charged over 2016 U.S. election interference

by Reuters
Wednesday, 27 January 2021 18:16 GMT

ARCHIVE PHOTO: A hooded man holds a laptop computer as cyber code is projected on him in this illustration picture taken on May 13, 2017. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

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Twitter personality "Ricky Vaughn" was charged with conspiring to disseminate misinformation including urging people to vote via text message

By Sarah N. Lynch

WASHINGTON, Jan 27 (Reuters) - A social media influencer with 58,000 Twitter followers was criminally charged on Wednesday with conspiring to disseminate misinformation aimed at depriving individuals of their right to vote in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Douglass Mackey, 31, of Florida, known on Twitter as "Ricky Vaughn" was charged by federal prosecutors in Brooklyn and will make an initial court appearance in a federal court in Florida.

Prosecutors say Mackey conspired with others to disseminate disinformation on social media to help a certain unnamed candidate, by urging people to cast their ballots through invalid means such as text messages.

In one tweet, he featured a picture of an African-American woman standing in front of a sign for an unnamed candidate. Next to the image, it said: "Avoid the line. Vote from home."

The criminal complaint does not name the candidate, but the Huffington Post previously reported the Twitter troll "Ricky Vaughn" was for an account controlled by Douglass Mackey, a supporter of Donald Trump, who won the 2016 election.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Vaughn has in the past openly supported hate groups, and once appeared on white nationalist Richard Spencer's Radix podcast.

"There is no place in public discourse for lies and misinformation to defraud citizens of their right to vote," Seth DuCharme, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in a statement.

"With Mackey's arrest, we serve notice that those who would subvert the democratic process in this manner cannot rely on the cloak of Internet anonymity to evade responsibility for their crimes."

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Howard Goller)