Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts Democrat and 2020 presidential hopeful, said Wednesday she will seek new laws if elected that criminalize spreading online disinformation intended to suppress voter turnout.
Ms. Warren, who is among the front-runners currently seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, announced the proposal in a plan for fighting digital disinformation published on her campaign website.
Among other measures, Ms. Warren said her administration would propose creating “civil and criminal penalties for knowingly disseminating false information about when and how to vote in U.S. elections.”
“In both the 2016 and 2018 elections, online disinformation sought to depress voter turnout by telling people they could vote via text, giving people the wrong date for election day and more. 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,” Ms. Warren said.
The U.S. intelligence community has previously assessed that Russian internet trolls attempted to interfere in the U.S. electoral process in part by spreading political disinformation on social media.
Nearly a year away from the 2020 elections, multiple federal agencies warned in November that nations besides Russia are likely to similarly weaponize social media to meddle in the current White House race.
“Russia, China, Iran and other foreign malicious actors all will seek to interfere in the voting process or influence voter perceptions,” the Trump administration warned at the time.
“Adversaries may try to accomplish their goals through a variety of means, including social media campaigns, directing disinformation operations or conducting disruptive or destructive cyberattacks on state and local infrastructure,” the administration said in November.
More recently, the Democratic National Committee separately announced Wednesday that the DNC will deploy experts to Iowa during next week’s caucuses to respond to any related disinformation spreading online.
In a statement posted on her official Twitter account touting her proposal, Ms. Warren called on fellow White House hopefuls to take a stand against online disinformation as Election Day nears.
“I will not tolerate the use of false information or false accounts to attack my opponents, promote my campaign, or undermine our elections. And I urge my fellow candidates to do the same,” Ms. Warren tweeted.
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