Elizabeth Warren calls for tough penalties for spreading misinformation online

The Democratic presidential candidate said she'll work to fight disinformation aimed at her campaign as well as at her opponents.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren's plan calls for the government and tech companies to work together to fight misinformation.
Samuel Corum/Getty Images

This story is part of Elections 2020, CNET's coverage of the voting in November and its aftermath.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Wednesday proposed creating civil and criminal penalties for knowingly spreading false information online about when and how to vote in US elections. The Democratic presidential candidate also called on tech companies to take "real steps" to fight disinformation. 

"I'm also calling on tech companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Google to take real steps right now to fight disinformation spread on their platforms," Warren said in a tweet Wednesday. "The safety of our democracy is more important than shareholder dividends and CEO salaries."

Warren has vowed to break up big tech companies like Facebook, Google and Amazon if she becomes president, arguing that they have too much power, stifle competition and hurt small businesses. She's also been a vocal critic of Facebook's decision to let politicians lie in ads. In October, she ran an ad on the social network to make her point -- it deliberately contained a falsehood, that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had endorsed President Donald Trump.

Warren's plan to tackle disinformation also calls for the government and tech companies to work more closely to fight misinformation campaigns. She also urged social media platforms to ban accounts that "knowingly disseminate false information about the time, place, and manner of voting."

Warren also said misinformation erodes democracy and pledged not to tolerate the use of "false information or false accounts to attack my opponents, promote my campaign, or undermine our elections."