A West Palm Beach social media influencer has been charged by the Justice Department for disseminating misinformation that was designed to deprive individuals of their right to vote. Is spreading tactical lies a crime? The courts will need to weigh the issue against the First Amendment. But it’s clear that the First Amendment is being abused in these cases and undermining the values that gave rise to a free press and free speech. In this article, we’ll take a look at the allegations and how the case might proceed.
What Did the Defendant Do?
Douglas Mackey convinced other people on the internet to cast their votes early by text message. The voter would believe that they had already cast their vote and hence, not bother once election day came around.
At one time, Mackey has rated as the 107th most influential influencer on Twitter with over 50,000 followers. In fact, his account was rated as more influential than NBC News and other major media outlets.
The Intentional Spreading of Tactical Lies
What is a tactical lie? For the purposes of this article, let’s define a tactical lie as a lie that is meant to cause an action or to discourage an action. So how is this different from advertising? Well, let’s keep that comparison in the back of our minds as we unpack the allegations against this defendant.
So let’s go back to advertising. Advertisers are allowed to voice their own opinion about their product, but they cannot say a material falsehood is true or that something true is a lie when attempting to sell their product. In this case, the advertiser was the defendant and the product was Donald Trump.
However, candidates can lie about other candidates. One candidate may sue another candidate after the election for slander or libel, but by the time they do that, the lie has already been told, and whatever damage it’s doing has already been done. It’s not, however, a crime necessarily to tell the lie. Candidates and influencers and pundits are not prosecuted for telling lies.
Why Would the Government Charge This Individual?
It’s important to understand that in the past, information was controlled very tightly. You only had newspapers, television, magazines, and things like that. The ability to have your opinion heard was tightly controlled. Today, the internet has given everyone a platform. So, we’re in uncharted territories.
It’s unclear on what basis the government will pursue their case against Mackey, but fraud appears to be the most likely. A fraud prosecution would essentially prevent Mackey from claiming the First Amendment as a defense. But no money was received by Mackey and the speech was political in nature. This will be a test case for future individuals who attempt to subvert the democratic process by knowingly telling lies. But it’s not clear if the Constitution protects those people too.
Talk to a West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Attorney
If you’re being prosecuted by the federal government, then you need an attorney who is skilled at handling cases in federal court. Call the West Palm Beach criminal lawyers at The Skier Law Firm, P.A. today to learn more about how we can help.