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A notorious Twitter troll known as “Microchip” told a Brooklyn federal jury that he spread chaos, controversy and misinformation online to damage Democrat Hillary Clinton’s chances of winning the 2016 presidential election.
“I wanted to infect everything,” Microchip testified Wednesday at the trial of fellow far-right troll Douglass Mackey, 32, who’s accused of posting images on Twitter designed to trick people into thinking they could vote by text.
Microchip, who was allowed to testify using only his screen name, cut a striking figure in the fourth-floor courtroom at Brooklyn Federal Court.
Heavyset and bearded, with his hair slicked back, he wore a royal blue sweatshirt, sweatpants, sandals and socks. He often leaned back, looking toward the ceiling or crossing his arms as he viewed exhibits and answered questions.
He described how he grew his online following, used psychological tricks to get ideas and memes in front of Hillary Clinton supporters and tweeted hundreds of times a day.
His ultimate goal, he said, was “to cause as much chaos as possible, so that it would bleed over to Hillary Clinton and diminish her chances of winning.”
Mackey, a former Manhattan resident now living in Florida, is accused of tweeting fake Clinton campaign ads under his popular Twitter moniker “Ricky Vaughn” a week before the 2016 election, urging voters to “avoid the line” and vote by text even though that was impossible.
He’s charged with conspiracy against rights, which carries a possible 10-year sentence.
Microchip pleaded guilty to the same charge and is cooperating with the government on the Mackey case and other FBI investigations.
At times Wednesday, Microchip tried to keep talking even after a lawyer’s objection, leading Judge Ann Donnelly to lightly tell him, “stay in your lane.”
He testified about participating in group chats with names like “War Room,” and “Fed Free Hate.”
“I was in many group [direct messages],” he said. “We crafted memes, and one of those memes we crafted dealt with voting the wrong way.”
Their intent, he said, was to “defraud voters of their right to vote.”
“The hope would be that Hillary Clinton voters would see this and then vote incorrectly,” Microchip testified.
One image posted by Microchip on Election Day showed a photoshopped picture of comedian Aziz Ansari holding up a sign reading “Save time, avoid the line, vote from home.”
Mackey was active in group chats, Microchip said. “He was very well-respected back then, and he still is ... I would say that he’s a leader of sorts.
“He had good ideas for the strategy for creating memes.”
Microchip said he built his Twitter following — 134,000 users for one account, and tens of thousands for others — by using automated “bot” services, then let human nature do the rest.
“If you see somebody followed by a lot of people, they might have something interesting to say,” he remarked.
He spent about 90% of his time online talking about the upcoming 2016 election, “to destroy the reputation of Hillary Clinton.”
“You wanted her to lose?” Assistant U.S. Attorney William Gulotta asked.
“Oh, yeah,” he responded.
He described spreading his message through memes and humor, explaining, “When people are laughing, they are very easily manipulated.”
And he amplified images he found on reddit and the web forum 4chan, which often hosts vulgar and bullying photos and posts.
Microchip described 4chan in more benign terms: “It’s a place for internet intellectuals to gather together to talk about different topics.”
He later clarified, “4chan is used by intellectuals and by absolute idiots, so it’s a dual thing there.”
He also talked about the thousands of tweets he posted about Clinton campaign chair John Podesta’s hacked e-mails, which were twisted into the basis of the online Pizzagate conspiracy theory.
Microchip said he didn’t see anything “weird or strange” in the e-mails, but that hardly mattered.
“My talent is to make things weird and strange, so that there is a controversy ... and then his reputation would bleed over to Hillary Clinton,” he boasted.
Was what he posted true? “No,” he said, “And I didn’t care.”
Mackey’s lawyer Andrew Frisch pressed Microchip on his cooperation agreement and brought up an earlier statement he made to the FBI in 2021 that his firehose of tweets was meant to flood social media with content — not part of a grand plan to prevent people from voting.
Frisch also pointed out that Microchip, who is self-employed as a mobile app developer, could potentially lose clients if he was publicly arrested or if his identity was revealed.
And he asked about out some of Microchip’s recent tweets, including one from last month in which he announced, “My IQ is so high right now, you have no idea.”
The trial is set to continue Thursday. Frisch said in his opening statement he expects Mackey to testify in his own defense.