Scott Tibbs

No, we should not put people in prison for trolling

By Scott Tibbs, March 31, 2023

Trolls are annoying. Trolls can destroy a forum, derail productive conversations, and drive away quality engagement. In addition to their own selfishness, they spread lies and half truths to poison the public discourse. But should they spend time in prison, even if they are openly lying about elections and voting?

No. If someone is posting lies online to misinform or suppress the turnout for an opposing candidate, he should not be prosecuted. As a voter, it is your responsibility to make sure you have all the information required to vote. It is your responsibility to find out where your precinct is located, how to cast your ballot and so forth. You have literally months to get this information. This is your civic duty. It may be immoral to lie about these things, but it should not be illegal, and it does not absolve voters of the responsibility to get the required information from an official source.

The best test cases for free speech are often the most obnoxious people, and one could certainly argue that Douglass Mackey fits that description. That is where our commitment is truly tested. One does not have to approve of racist rhetoric, crass comments or even outright lies about voting procedures to realize how dangerous it is for the federal government to attempt to send someone to prison for his posts on social media. It is one thing for social media companies to forbid "misinformation" on their sites, and to delete posts or even ban users posting forbidden content. It is another thing entirely to criminally prosecute people for posting memes and text on social media.

This is exactly what many on the Right have been warning about for years: The weaponization of government and especially of the criminal justice system to silence or punish political enemies. The fact that this is still being pursued six years later shows how determined the Deep State is to abuse their power to silence the opposition. There are people who should be behind bars for this fiasco. Not the obnoxious Twitter trolls, but the Deep State actors who are weaponizing government and turning us into a banana republic.

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