Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren Absolutely Wants the Government To Punish Facebook for Spreading Disinformation

"We need to stop this generation of big tech companies from profiting off of lies to the American people," the candidate told PEN America.


PEN America, an advocacy organization that defends writers, journalism, and free speech in general, asked Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) 10 pressing questions about how she would combat various threats to free expression. Warren responded by attacking Facebook repeatedly—indeed, she mentioned the social media company more times than she mentioned President Donald Trump.

As evidenced by her answers, Warren believes that Big Tech is one of the greatest threats to free expression, if not the greatest. (Her proposed solutions to this supposed problem are themselves significant threats to free expression.)

After briefly discussing the need to eject Trump from the White House, Warren quickly pivoted to her real hobby horse:

We also need to crack down on the spread of disinformation that severely undermines free expression and legitimate journalism. Once again, we're seeing Facebook throw up its hands in the face of disinformation campaigns on its platforms, because when profit comes up against protecting democracy, Facebook chooses profit. We need to stop this generation of big tech companies from profiting off of lies to the American people. That's why my administration will make big, structural changes to the tech sector—including breaking up giant tech companies like Amazon, Facebook, and Google—and requiring large tech platforms to be designated as "Platform Utilities" and broken apart from any participant on that platform. My administration will also appoint regulators committed to reversing illegal and anti-competitive tech mergers.

I've bolded the above sentence because it confirms that Warren believes the government should take action to deter those who spread "disinformation" online. This is highly relevant since media outlets that recently reported a Warren plan to fight disinformation were accused of getting the story wrong. Complaints weren't unreasonable; CNBC used the headline, "Elizabeth Warren proposes criminal penalties for spreading disinformation online," which was too broad since she had only proposed criminal penalties for spreading disinformation about polling locations (an illegal form of voter disenfranchisement, in Warren's view).

"With the first elections in the Democratic primary race closing in, Sen. Elizabeth Warren released a plan this week to combat digital disinformation," wrote Boston.com's Nik DeCosta-Klipa. "Then—in what was both an ironic, if not unpredictable, twist and a "perfect case study" of the problem—the plan fell victim to false information itself."

It's true that Warren has not specifically proposed criminal penalties for the broader category of disinformation. But based on the above interview with PEN America, it's perfectly clear that she does think the government has a role to play in suppressing disinformation broadly defined. When the feds "crack down" on something, it is often by regulating it, making it illegal, and penalizing the people and institutions who defy the crackdown. It's thus not crazy to think that Warren is calling for the criminalization of a kind of speech she does not like—since that's exactly what she's calling for.

This theme of aggressively regulating, breaking up, and punishing tech companies is one that Warren returns to over and over again in the PEN America interview. She calls on congressional and state authorities to open up investigations of Facebook. She says that Section 230, which shields tech companies from some legal liability if unprotected speech appears on their platforms, should be reformed. This is the true irony of her free speech defense plan: It involves the government ordering private companies to police more kinds of speech.

Given all her statements on this matter, Warren is obviously no friend to free speech online. Perhaps anti-tech conservatives should stop using her exact same talking points.

NEXT: Adam Schiff: 'Trump Has Betrayed Our National Security, and He Will Do So Again'

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  1. OK. I will admit a Warren Presidency might be bad for Mark Zuckerberg. Which is problematic from a Koch / Reason POV since our philosophy exists to make life better for the richest people on the planet.

    You know what? Forced to choose between Zuckerberg and Charles Koch, I will always side with Mr. Koch. And he will do much better under a Warren Presidency than he’s been doing under Orange Hitler. Because at least President Warren won’t keep Mr. Koch’s preferred labor force locked in concentration camps.


    1. BTW, Charles Koch lost another $400 million today. Meaning he’s down almost $3 billion already this year.


      1. According to AOC, it’s just folks taking back the billions he took from them.

        1. These losses were undoubtedly caused by the inappropriate “satire” with which the Kochs were confronted several years ago, as reported in the press at the time. By the terms of our nation’s leading criminal “parody” case, that incident should have been handled in the criminal courts. See the documentation at:


  2. Regarding spreading false information, Trump should tweet. “Good luck with your bill Lizzie, looking forward to locking you up in the near future.”

    1. Lock her up!

  3. Evil.

  4. Is there ever any time Warren doesn’t come across as the scolding small-town spinster schoolmarm scowling over her glasses, pursed lips showing her disapproval of your hijinks, your gum chewing, your skipping in the hallways and your morally suspect disregard for what is prim and proper behavior for little ladies and gentlemen? Don’t you think if she had her way we’d all be sitting quietly in our chairs with our hands folded in our laps as she read to us from some 19th-century Golden Book of Morally Uplifting Stories For Good Little Boys and Girls? Of course, we all know secretly she reads The Dummies Guide To Removing Large Sticks From Your Ass.

    1. When she was an Indian princess?

    2. That time she chugged a beer to show she was a hip cool scold?

      1. I would be more impressed had it been Drano.

        1. Or a Tide Pod, to show she’s “with it” for today’s youth.

    3. There were a few of my strict HS teachers who I wouldn’t have minded having for President. They would have been shocked at Washington, D. C.’s ignoring of basic math, and wilful misinterpretation of foundational written documents.

    4. I am baffled that Elizabeth Warren has kids that were conceived before IVF was available. I guess she must have stolen them from the hospital nursery, because, I mean what guy would want to do THAT with her?

      1. She probably made the poor bastard do it with her in a pitch dark room, as quickly as possible, through a hole in a blanket kept between them and he was grateful for those thoughtful accommodations on her part and felt relieved to have it over and done with.

      2. There’s this drug called “alcohol”, which also explains how Hillary Clinton reproduced.


  5. Why stop there?
    CNN, the NYT, AP, and MSNBC pitched that ‘THE RUSSKIS!!!!!!’ hogwash for three years; off with their heads!

  6. You mean disinformation like “I’m Cherokee” or “my kids went to public school” or “I am divested from fossil fuels” or “I’m gonna have me a beer like I always do” or “MUH RUSSIA!” or “my daddy was a janitor” or “Bernie is a sexist” or “I’m not a robot clone originally designed to replace Hillary upon her abduction by the lizard people” or “the words coming out of my mouth are genuinely my personally held position, not politically expedient focus-grouped buzzwords” and stuff like that?

    1. All of those conspiracy theories have been been debunked by our European allies and the World Bank or somebody.

      1. “…or somebody…”
        That “somebody” with all the cred of OBL, commie kid’s latest sock, the Rev and other lefty trolls here; to be ignored.

    2. If they were serious, they would pass laws punishing politicians who lie.

      1. Jails ain’t big enough.

      2. They aren’t serious.
        Congressional immunity is a license to lie with impunity.
        It is almost part of the politician job description.
        But tell them something they don’t want to hear, it’s felony perjury.

    3. Do you really think those rules would apply to people in power just like they would to ordinary folks posting on social media?

      You must also think that the old Soviet officials lived in cramped shared apartments, used public transportation, and spent part of each day standing in bread lines.

  7. No, she wants the government to punish Facebook for “spreading” (IOW, not censoring) statements she doesn’t want disseminated. Whether they’re objectively false or not will have diddly squat to do with it. Designating them as “false” is just a targeting mechanism, like shining a laser designator where the bombs are supposed to land.

    1. Like the bill she purported in 2018 that would effectively put a government political officer in every larger corporation. And so much worse.


  8. PEN America, an advocacy organization that defends writers, journalism, and free speech in general

    Just don’t draw any untoward cartoons…

  9. For Christ’s sake, won’t she ever just STFU and go away?

    1. No, actually, she will never go away.

      1. Even if she does, some other retard will pick up her torch.

    2. A new McCarthyism movement would get rid of her.

  10. We also need to crack down on the spread of disinformation that severely undermines free expression and legitimate journalism.

    Part of the problem here is, the tech companies are on board with this themselves.

    Example: Let’s say you’re an independent journalist or as we sometimes like to call them “citizen journalist”. And let’s say you start following some public figure– be it private or public sector, and you start printing stories about their corruption. Then let’s say at some point you actually get under the skin of that public figure. There’s a very good chance your social media account will be suspended, and possibly permanently for “harassment”.

    This happens all the time. And if you’re not the New York Times, there’s nothing you can do about it.

    1. PS. I use “corruption” in an overly broad way. What I probably should have said was printing stories or reports which are critical of them. Any form of ongoing online criticism is now defined by most social media companies as a form of online harassment.

      Showing a short video segment from another youtuber, for instance, and then commenting on that segment can earn you a channel strike. Imagine a major news organization getting a strike because they republished tweets or showed a short segment of a youtube video.

      1. Sounds like you listen to Tim Pool. Anyhow, the conservative and progressive criticisms of big tech are not the same. The solutions are very different as well. Conservatives argue for either actually being free speech platforms or neutrally uphold the rules. Progressives want control over language and the ability to eliminate contrary opinions

    2. And they’re not just beholden to US politicians
      Banned from Twitter for writing about Chinese scientists accused of stealing from a Canadian virus research lab

      1. http://www.zerohedge.com/health/man-behind-global-coronavirus-pandemic

        This was the article that caused Twitter to shut down ZeroHedge’s account on behalf of China

    3. This goes several ways though and the current system is fucked no matter how you look at it. Warren is correct, but a doofus for how she is attacking the situation. You can print the truth or straight up lies and some get removed and some don’t regardless of what is put up. What stays or gets removed doesn’t matter because they’re privately-owned along with CDA 230.

      Let’s say you don’t have a facebook. Let’s say you don’t want a facebook. Cool. Someone can make a facebook for you, use it for years, say terrible shit, and when that person goes to ruin you then you need to defend that it wasn’t you. How you going to do that or even know if you don’t have a facebook to check?

      There are civil cases to be made out of such activity and depending on state there are even felonies resulting from theft of identity. None of that matters because once you trace each lead to a dead end because of VPNs with no data retention plus TOR you’re SOL and no one is being held liable.

      Everyone is vulnerable to this and the legal remedies we put in place to handle this no longer apply.

      CNN states of publishes a false statement of fact and a lawyer can go after them. A CNN journalist with a lot of followers has a secret blog where they make false statements of fact and they tweet out a link leads to a dead end. By the time the news gets out that it is bogus the damage is done, but no one can sue.

  11. A scold’s bridle, sometimes called a witch’s bridle, a brank’s bridle, or simply branks, was an instrument of punishment, as a form of torture and public humiliation. The device was an iron muzzle in an iron framework that enclosed the head (although some bridles were masks that depicted suffering). A bridle-bit (or curb-plate), about 2 in × 1 in (5.1 cm × 2.5 cm) in size, was slid into the mouth and either pressed down on top of the tongue as a compress or used to raise the tongue to lie flat on the wearer’s palate. This prevented speaking and resulted in many unpleasant side effects for the wearer, including excessive salivation and fatigue in the mouth.

  12. Maybe she’ll form a “Ministry of Truth”

  13. The most frustrating aspect of this is her wilful refusal to understand that the primary difference between government and business is that businesses are subject to competition. There are just as many scoundrels, liars, cheaters, and fools in business as in government; but businesses go bust when they misbehave … unless, of course, governments takes sides and protects them.

    And all she (and every other politician) wants to do is give government even more power.

  14. These people really believe Trump is president because Facebook.

    1. A former media director for the Obama campaign said Facebook allowed them to access the personal data of its users in 2011 because the social media giant was “on our side.”

      “They came to office in the days following election recruiting & were very candid that they allowed us to do things they wouldn’t have allowed someone else to do because they were on our side,” Carol Davidsen, director of data integration and media analytics for Obama for America, wrote Sunday on Twitter.


  15. “Elizabeth Warren Absolutely Wants the Government To Punish Facebook for Spreading Facts”


    1. Warren wants to use the power of the government to compel anything she wants to compel. Just like every other Democrat running.

      This is barely newsworthy. Pretending that this specific incident is anything other than of a piece with all the rest is all Robby has left.

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  17. Excuse me but Liz is Miss Disinformation. AKA a proven liar…

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  19. Recently, Facebook has involved a lot of scandals. People are free to post just anything mostly fake news and so on. With this, other users are subjected to be misinformed. https://recruitmentjobs.com.ng/nsia-recruitment

  20. Disinformation? Like lying about your heritage to get into an elite college? You locking your self up Lizzie? And who gets to decide what is disinformation? You Lizzie? Your staff? The DNC? How about if it is Donald Trump, his staff and the RNC that gets to decide what is disinformation? Now you see the trouble with your plan!

  21. Why would the damage from lying only apply to media giants? Look in the mirror.

    The purpose of all lying is to coerce people to make decisions they wouldn’t if they knew the truth.

    With this logic, libertarians should all want lying to be illegal.

    1. Lying is not coercion, there is no force or threat of force.

      It’s still wrong, but it’s not the same wrong.

      1. “ Lying is not coercion”

        Why wouldn’t you check the definition of coerce before making such a claim?

        Here is the definition of coerce.

        “to compel by force, intimidation, or authority, especially without regard for individual desire or volition”

        Truth has authority in rational speech. Lies wrongly assume the authority of truth. That’s how they work.

    2. Libertarians would not want lying to be illegal because whoever is in authority would get decide what is lying (any criticism of them).

      I think they would instead advocate for a major increase in critical thinking and just plain scepticism.

      1. “ Libertarians would not want lying to be illegal because whoever is in authority would get decide what is lying ”

        What makes you believe that to be true?

        Do libertarians currently believe that whoever is in power gets to decide what is truth?

  22. It amuses me that Lizzie regards herself as perfectly competent to see through disinformation, but everybody else is too stupid to do that for themselves. She’s quite a mixture of ignorance and arrogance.

  23. Under Warren’s plan only government-approved disinformation will be allowed on Facebook

  24. “We need to stop this generation of arrogant elitist politicians from profiting off of lies to the American people!”

  25. “…Wants the Government To Punish Facebook for Spreading Disinformation….”

    I guess, by extension, it should also punish that microphone she has in her hand, right?

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  27. “We need to stop this generation of big tech companies from profiting off of lies to the American people,” the candidate told PEN America. She then added, “Only politicians should be allowed to do that.”

  28. Her presumption that it is easy for the operators of platform to determine what is true from all the users independentlly uploading to it that the only possible objection to doing that is cost may be one of the stupidest things a politician has expected her audience to buy into.

    In order not to insult her intelligence, I have to presume she is insulting everyone else’s.

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