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Twitter Troll Slapped With Prison Sentence Over Misleading Election Memes

Douglass Mackey, who ran a Twitter account with over 58,000 followers, was sentenced to seven months in prison Wednesday for a meme he shared on social media during the 2016 election, according to Courthouse News.

Mackey was convicted by a jury in March of conspiring to deprive others of their right to vote, which carried a potential sentence of up to 10 years.  The meme that led to his conviction was a fake flier encouraging Clinton supporters to vote from home via text message.

“Avoid the line. Vote from home,” it stated. “Text ‘Hillary’ to 59925. Vote for Hillary and be a part of history.”

Small text at the bottom of the flier notes that voting by text is “not available in Guam, Puerto Rico, Alaska or Hawaii.”

Prosecutors said that Mackey also belonged to private Twitter direct-message groups where he “coordinated” dissemination of misinformation “intended variously to provoke, mislead, and, in some cases, deceive voters in the 2016 presidential election” with others, according to the sentencing memo.

“Mackey has been found guilty by a jury of his peers of attempting to deprive individuals from exercising their sacred right to vote for the candidate of their choice in the 2016 Presidential Election,” United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Breon Peace said after Mackey’s conviction in March. “Today’s verdict proves that the defendant’s fraudulent actions crossed a line into criminality and flatly rejects his cynical attempt to use the constitutional right of free speech as a shield for his scheme to subvert the ballot box and suppress the vote.”

First Amendment experts raised concerns earlier this year that the law used to convict Mackey could also be used to target any allegedly false statements about political or election-related issues.

“It criminalizes conspiring to ‘injure’ or ‘oppress’ someone in the exercise of any constitutional right,” Aaron Terr, director of Public Advocacy for the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, told the Daily Caller News Foundation in April. “If that vague language covers speech that deceives people into voting improperly, it raises the troubling possibility of the government also applying it to allegedly false statements about political issues or candidates that discourage people from voting, not just misrepresentations about the logistics of exercising the franchise.”

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