Hillary Clinton has issued a stern warning on Thursday (8 December) against fake news, branding it an "epidemic" which must be addressed to protect America's democracy.

In her second public address since losing the US election to Donald Trump, the Democrat made the comment in the wake of a flurry of widely discredited news stories, which some supporters argue lost her the presidential bid.

One of which was the spurious claim that a pizza restaurant linked to her campaign chairman John Podesta was at the heart of a child-sex ring, causing a 28-year-old man to enter the shop with an assault rifle and fire three shots before being arrested.

Clinton would not comment on whether she believed fake news had cost her the election, but did call for firm action to be taken about "the epidemic of malicious fake news and false propaganda that flooded social media over the past year."

In a farewell ceremony for retiring Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, she said: "It's now clear that so-called fake news can have real world consequences.

"This isn't about politics or partisanship – lives are at risk. Lives of ordinary people just trying to go about their days to do their jobs, contribute to their communities.

"It's a danger that must be addressed, and addressed quickly. Bipartisan legislation is making its way through Congress to boost the government's response to foreign propaganda and Silicon Valley are beginning to grapple with the challenge and threat of fake news.

"It's imperative that leaders in both the private sector and the public sector step up to protect our democracy and innocent lives."

The legislation Clinton referred to was an expansion of the National Defense Authorization Act, which calls on the State Department to lead government-wide effort to identify propaganda and counter its effects. The authorisation is for $160m (£127m) over two years.

However, some critics of the bill have likened it to the 1950s McCarthyist-era Red Scares as it allows government to detain foreign and US nationals for merely sympathising with or providing any level of support to groups the US designates as terrorist organisations.

As such, they could potentially be imprisoned without charge or trial "until the end of hostilities."

Not only would that breach the US Constitution's 14th amendment for habeus corpus, critics fear it may breach a person's first amendment right to free speech as demonstrators and protestors could too be prosecuted.