Warren releases plan to fight election disinformation

Warren releases plan to fight election disinformation
© Greg Nash

Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenInequality of student loan debt underscores possible Biden policy shift Thomas Piketty says pandemic is opportunity to address income inequality The Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation MORE (Mass.) on Wednesday released a plan to fight online disinformation ahead of the 2020 election, warning that the country is ill-prepared to combat the scourge of false information and "fake news" certain to spread across Facebook, Google, Twitter and other platforms.

The Democratic White House hopeful is calling on the tech industry, U.S. government and individual political campaigns to actively combat online efforts to spread lies and falsehoods, warning the country could face a repeat of 2016, when Russian trolls sought to sow discord with divisive social media posts aimed at ginning up support for President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump rages against '60 Minutes' for interview with Krebs Cornyn spox: Neera Tanden has 'no chance' of being confirmed as Biden's OMB pick Pa. lawmaker was informed of positive coronavirus test while meeting with Trump: report MORE

"The stakes of this election are too high — we need to fight the spread of false information that disempowers voters and undermines democracy," Warren wrote in the lengthy plan released on her campaign website. "I’ll do my part — and I’m calling on my fellow candidates and big tech companies to do their part too." 


The Massachusetts senator pledged that her campaign will not "knowingly" spread any disinformation — including misleadingly edited videos or manipulated news reports — about herself or any of her opponents.  

Nearly all of the top Democratic candidates this election season, including Warren, have been the target of viral misinformation efforts that spread lies or misleading footage across an increasingly polarized online ecosystem.

At the end of last year, Facebook inflamed Democratic fury with its decision to run campaign ads from Trump that included falsehoods about former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump rages against '60 Minutes' for interview with Krebs Cornyn spox: Neera Tanden has 'no chance' of being confirmed as Biden's OMB pick Five things to know about Georgia's Senate runoffs MORE.

And Warren's opponents have shared a photoshopped image aimed at making her campaign look bad. 

"I’m sending a clear message to anyone associated with the Warren campaign: I will not tolerate the use of false information or false accounts to attack my opponents, promote my campaign, or undermine our elections," Warren wrote. "And I urge my fellow candidates to do the same."


She also vowed to push for criminal penalties against anyone who spreads lies about when and how to vote in U.S. elections, which most of the top social media companies have officially banned.

Warren turned her ire toward the social media companies themselves, hammering Facebook over its policy allowing false information in political ads, Twitter for focusing too narrowly on foreign election interference rather than disinformation from all bad actors and YouTube for inconsistently enforcing its policy to label videos from state-controlled media. 

She called on the country's top tech CEOs to work more closely with one another to take down cross-platform disinformation campaigns, clearly label state media posts, offer more help for users who are targeted by disinformation and share more data about the alarming content they find on their platforms.

"Companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube can take these actions right now to stem the spread of disinformation," she wrote. "They should."