Tech

Elizabeth Warren proposes criminal penalties for spreading voting disinformation online

Key Points
  • Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren on Wednesday released a plan to fight disinformation to hold tech companies accountable for their actions in light of the 2016 election. 
  • Warren proposed to combat disinformation by holding big tech companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Google responsible for their actions.
Democratic presidential hopeful Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren speaks during the fourth Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season co-hosted by The New York Times and CNN at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio on October 15, 2019.
Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Wednesday released a plan to fight disinformation and to hold tech companies accountable for their actions in light of the 2016 election.

"Disinformation and online foreign interference erode our democracy, and Donald Trump has invited both," Warren said in a Tweet Wednesday. "Anyone who seeks to challenge and defeat Donald Trump in the 2020 election must be fully prepared to take this on – and I've got a plan to do it."

Warren proposed to combat disinformation by holding big tech companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google responsible for spreading misinformation designed to suppress voters from turning out.

"I will push for new laws that impose tough civil and criminal penalties for knowingly disseminating this kind of information, which has the explicit purpose of undermining the basic right to vote," Warren said in a release.

Warren, who has been an advocate for breaking up big tech companies like Amazon and Facebook, has said that she wants to make "big structural changes to the tech sector to promote more competition." It's part of a broader policy to stop disinformation, requiring tech companies and the government to come together to solve the problem.

Other candidates such as Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Bernie Sanders have also been skeptical of large technology companies. Sanders has repeatedly targeted Amazon, saying it should increase its wages and benefits for workers.

Warren has slipped in recent polls ahead of the Iowa caucuses next week. She's in third place in national polls and fourth place in Iowa.

Warren also criticized how the companies' emphasis on profit contributed to misinformation during the 2016 election, such as false ads that led to polarization and could have suppressed votes from groups like black voters.

As president, Warren said she would reinstate the position of cybersecurity coordinator at the National Security Council, a position crucial to protecting the U.S. She added she will also open up data for research so that academics and organizations can provide the public with knowledge on disinformation.

"The stakes of this election are too high -- we need to fight the spread of false information that disempowers voters and undermines democracy," Warren said. "I'll do my part -- and I'm calling on my fellow candidates and big tech companies to do their part too."

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