New York, October 2016. Douglass Mackey posts a meme on Twitter from his account with the title: Skip the line. Vote from home. Text Hillary to 59925. Vote for Hillary and be part of the story.
The message uses the typography, logos, and elements of the style of the Democratic candidate and is accompanied by a small print (as in the electoral announcements of the United States) with a legal pseudo-notice.
You must be 18 years or older to vote. per person vote. Must be a legal US citizen. Message vote is not available in Guam, Puerto Rico, Alaska, and Hawaii. Paid for by Hillary for President 2016.
Florida, January 27, 2021. Douglass Mackey is arrested by the FBI on charges of a crime of conspiring against fundamental rights. He is sent before a Florida judge and is released on bail pending trial. If convicted he can spend 10 years in prison.
The affidavit of the case makes specific mention of the format of memes that Mackey and the other three conspirators used with the wish that those memes influence the behavior of those who saw them. Specifically, to make believe that SMS and social networks were valid forms of voting for the 2016 presidential elections.
This is a historical case in North American jurisprudence in which memes have become the means to (presumably) attack a basic right contained in the country’s constitution.
The defendant exploited his platform on social networks to infringe one of the most basic and sacred rights guaranteed by the Constitution: the right to vote assures the assistant prosecutor in the case Nicholas L. McQuaid.
The defendant is accused of violating section 241 of title 18 of the United States Code of Justice, designed to punish those who, in an association of two or more people, conspire to harm, oppress, threaten or intimidate a person of exercise a right or privilege guaranteed by the Constitution and the Laws of the United States.
In this way, the prosecution and the FBI understand that the different versions of the meme that Mackey shared through social networks would be equivalent to stealing votes cast in a ballot box, according to the prosecution.
What Mackey allegedly did was interfere with the process by asking voters to cast their vote via text message amounts to nothing less than vote theft. It is illegal behavior that contributes to the erosion of trust. of the public in our electoral process.
According to the indictment, the defendant had 58,000 followers on Twitter and an MIT study placed Mackey in number 107 of the most influential accounts for the 2016 elections with more influence than traditional television networks, such as the powerful NBC, which was ranked 114th in the rankings.
PSYOPS: AMATEUR PSYCHOLOGICAL OPERATIONS
The complaint against Mackey alludes to different messages, memes, and disinformation campaigns in which the influencer participated along with three people who are not identified in the letter to prove the existence of the conspiracy and that it was prolonged in time.
However, although other memes with disinformation deception or anti-Semitic content were common in the accounts that Mackay used to operate it has only been imputed for those messages that focused on making citizens believe that they could vote for Hillary Clinton by SMS, although it is not a valid form of vote.
Mackey and his associates were aware that their messages were intended to sow confusion in what they considered a series of psyops an acronym for Psychological Operations, in English.
Psychological operations are actions that a certain government carries out to alter the mood or public opinion of a target population. These are operations carried out by the vast majority of countries (usually against populations of foreign nations) and their execution may depend on a specific branch of the armed forces (such as the Special Operations Command in the United States), from intelligence services or both.
Starting in 2014, users of crowded forums such as 4Chan decided to carry out their psychological operations to create some confusion among some progressive audiences. Some in the form of practical jokes and others promoting harassment, the disclosure of private information, or other behaviors that could border on the criminal.
The execution of these psychological operations began to be popularized by supporters of Donald Trump, members of the Alt-right, groups of the extreme right, and digital thugs, as in the case of Mackey and his accomplices, who, according to the affidavit, planned and they bragged between the laughter of their own psyops like the meme that invited Hillary Clinton to vote by SMS.
4,900 PEOPLE BELIEVED THE HOAX
In addition to autonomously, these amateur psychological operations to influence the vote in the United States have also been carried out in coordination with candidacies from the US Republican party. In fact, during the investigation, a Republican congressman acknowledged that Mackay provided services for his campaign and maintained a regular correspondence by email, although he claimed not to have met him in person.
What specific weight do these types of memes and initiatives have on voting? This is usually a difficult question to quantify. However in the case of SMS voting memes through Hillary Clinton.
The FBI was able to collect 4,900 different phone numbers that would have sent the SMS following the instructions of the meme. However, the document does not clarify how many of those people were aware of the deception and were able to cast their vote through a legally valid channel (in person or by mail) before the polls closed.
ONE OF THE ACCOMPLICES PARTICIPATED IN THE ASSAULT ON THE CAPITOL
The identity of the three accomplices Mackay relied on to launch his disinformation campaign has not been made public in court documents. However, different North American media suggest that one of his accomplices would be another far-right influencer and pro-Trump activist known as Baked Alaska.
Baked Alaska participated in the assault on the Capitol on January 6, broadcast a 20-minute live show in which he was seen participating in the assault, and was photographed in Nancy Pelosi’s office. Facts for which he was arrested last week.
Like Mackay, Alaska publishes anti-Semitic content, in favor of Donald Trump and has actively participated in protests by white nationalist groups in towns such as Charlottesville, Virginia, or New Orleans.
An ultra who, until his arrest for the events in the Capitol had emerged unscathed at the police and judicial level despite his participation in riots such as those mentioned above. Some facts by which part of the community of the extreme right congregated in 4Chan and the networks accuse Alaska of being an informant or a confidant of the authorities.
The identity of his other two accomplices remains unknown. However, thanks to the FBI investigation, it is known that one of Mackay’s three accomplices (it is unknown whether Alaska or one of the other two) collaborated with the Federal investigation and helped identify Mackay as the owner of the account since the one that memes were published to fool voters.