DOJ: Social media influencer charged with interference in 2016 election

Source: The Hill | January 27, 2021 | John Bowden

A Florida man who was an ardent support of former President Trump on Twitter was charged Wednesday with election interference after allegedly running a scam in 2016 that fooled thousands of people into believing they could vote via text message.

In a press release, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced the arrest of 31-year-old Douglass Mackey, who went by the name “Ricky Vaughn” on Twitter in several now-deleted accounts.

The DOJ release details that Mackey allegedly conspired with others using Twitter to trick U.S. voters into believing they could cast valid ballots in the 2016 election via text message.

“According to the allegations in the indictment, the defendant exploited a social media platform to infringe one the of most basic and sacred rights guaranteed by the Constitution: the right to vote,” said acting Assistant Attorney General Nicholas McQuaid in a statement. “This indictment underscores the department’s commitment to investigating and prosecuting those who would undermine citizens’ voting rights.”

Representatives for Twitter did not immediately return a request for comment from The Hill.

The DOJ did not specify which candidate’s supporters were targeted by the scam, but archived images from that time show a number of Twitter accounts sharing images encouraging supporters of Hillary Clinton, Trump’s 2016 opponent, to text the same number included in the press release.

In one tweet highlighted by the Justice Department, Mackey’s account urged followers to “Avoid the Line. Vote from Home,” and to text Clinton’s name to a certain number in order to cast their ballot ahead of time.

The posts, which originated from several accounts, were reported at the time by a number of news outlets.

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