While the federal government permitted, if not encouraged, social media platforms to censor relevant news stories that might have harmed President Joe Biden’s chances in the 2020 race, one man’s sarcastic post ahead of the 2016 election has landed him behind bars.
According to reports, Douglass Mackey received a seven-month prison sentence in connection with a meme that purported to be a pro-Hillary Clinton ad for a non-existent “vote from home” option.
While it should have been obvious that his post was a joke, a court found him guilty of “conspiracy against rights” and determined he should be locked up for sharing it.
The FBI was involved in investigating Mackey’s satirical post on the platform known at the time as Twitter and U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Breon Peace defended the decision to send him to prison for an act that many pundits and legal scholars insist should have been protected under the First Amendment.
Very Important First Amendment Case
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“One of the foundational rights we hold as Americans, a right that many fought so hard to obtain, is the right to vote,” Peace asserted, claiming that Mackey “weaponized disinformation” with the intention of keeping “targeted groups” from casting ballots.
He celebrated the unprecedented prosecution as “groundbreaking,” declaring that it “demonstrates our commitment to prosecuting those who commit crimes that threaten our democracy and seek to deprive people of their constitutional right to vote.”
Peace similarly denounced Mackey’s behavior in March, when the defendant was convicted of a crime that could have landed him behind bars for a decade.
“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,” Peace said at the time.
Then-Fox News Channel host Tucker Carlson weighed in on the conviction earlier this year, calling out the perceived partisan bias at play within the criminal justice system.
“Nobody believed he was a federal election official, and in fact, his social media profile picture had a Donald Trump hat,” he said of the response to Mackey’s post. “It was unmistakable. This was mockery, but in the wake of the 2016 election and the rising hysteria about Donald Trump, mocking the Democratic Party became a crime. So as a result tonight, Douglass Makey faces 10 years in prison.”
He described the case as “the most shocking attack on freedom of speech in this country in our lifetimes.”