The Vote-by-Tweet Memes Prosecution – Cause.com

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The Vote-by-Tweet Memes Prosecution – Reason.com

I have an article about it in Tablet Magazine; Here’s the opening:

In 2016, a Florida man named Douglass Mackey (under the online alias “Ricky Vaughn”) allegedly conspired to distribute a meme aimed at deceiving pro-Hillary voters.

Four years later, Mackey is now (in relation to this and other memes) for violating 18 USC § 241, a federal law punishing conspiracies “to harm, oppress, threaten or intimidate anyone … in free practice or enjoyment of a right or privilege secured for him by the constitution “- namely the right to vote. It is a crime to lie to voters so that they cannot vote.

Is this type of law enforcement constitutional? After all, people often lie in political campaigns. Candidates do it, activists do it, political activists do it. Can election lies simply be banned?

Surprisingly, the Supreme Court never resolved the issue. The big question is not clear: when can the government punish lies? The medium-sized question is not resolved: Can the government punish lies in campaigning? And it didn’t resolve the specific question: can the government punish lies about the voting mechanisms, and especially about the way they vote?