Home Politics The Vote by Tweet Memes Prosecution Could Go Forward, Court Rules

The Vote by Tweet Memes Prosecution Could Go Forward, Court Rules

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Here’s the beginning of my article about this case that I wrote in Tablet Magazine two-years ago. [UPDATE: just to be clear, it’s just the opening; I go into a lot more detail in the article itself]:

Douglass Mackey, a Florida man who went online under the alias Ricky Vaughn, allegedly conspired in 2016 to spread a meme that was intended to deceive pro-Hillary voters.

Four years later, Mackey is being prosecuted for violating 18 U.S.C. § 241, a federal law that punishes conspiracies “to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person … in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution”—namely, the right to vote. According to the theory, lying to voters is a crime that prevents them from voting.

Is this type of prosecution legal? It is not unusual for people to lie in political campaigns. Candidates do it, activists do it, political operatives do it. Can election lies be banned?

Surprisingly the Supreme Court has not yet resolved this question. The Supreme Court has not yet resolved the big picture question: When can the government penalize lies? It hasn’t addressed the medium-sized question: Can the government penalize lies in elections? The particular question is: Can the government penalize lies about the mechanisms of…



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