A group of House Democrats on Friday introduced legislation intended to increase media literacy among Americans in order to combat social media disinformation campaigns.
The Digital Citizen and Media Literacy Act would establish a $20 million grant program at the Department of Education to help fund K-12 media literacy curricula. The funds would be available to local education agencies to create programs on media literacy and to state agencies to create “advisory councils” to establish state-wide media literacy guidelines.
The bill was introduced days after the Senate Intelligence Committee released its bipartisan report on Russian social media disinformation efforts in the run-up to the 2016 elections.
The committee found that the Kremlin directed the Russian Internet Research Agency to spread disinformation with the goal of helping now-President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump criticizes Justice for restoring McCabe's benefits Biden: Those who defy Jan. 6 subpoenas should be prosecuted Hillicon Valley — Presented by LookingGlass — Hackers are making big money MORE over former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump criticizes Justice for restoring McCabe's benefits Biden sends 'best wishes' to Clinton following hospitalization The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Altria - Jan. 6 panel flexes its muscle MORE, echoing findings detailed by former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE.
The committee also included a set of recommendations for Congress, the Trump administration and social media companies in order to prevent future foreign disinformation efforts, including the idea of creating a “public initiative” aimed at promoting “critical thinking skills” to help Americans identify disinformation online.
“Addressing the challenge of disinformation in the long-term will ultimately need to be tackled by an informed and discerning population of citizens who are both alert to the threat and armed with the critical thinking skills necessary to protect against malicious influence,” the committee wrote. “A public initiative-propelled by federal funding but led in large part by state and local education institutions-focused on building media literacy from an early age would help build long-term resilience to foreign manipulation of our democracy.”
Sponsors of the bill include Democratic Reps. Elissa SlotkinElissa SlotkinDemocrats fret as longshot candidates pull money, attention Bleak midterm outlook shadows bitter Democratic battle Hillicon Valley — Presented by American Edge Project — Americans blame politicians, social media for spread of misinformation: poll MORE (Mich.), Jim LangevinJames (Jim) R. LangevinHillicon Valley — Presented by American Edge Project — Americans blame politicians, social media for spread of misinformation: poll Democrats urge federal agencies to address use of cryptocurrencies for ransomware payments Biden signs bill to strengthen K-12 school cybersecurity MORE (R.I.), Abigail SpanbergerAbigail Davis SpanbergerJill Biden campaigns for McAuliffe in Virginia Laws should unite, not divide Anti-Trump Republicans endorsing vulnerable Democrats to prevent GOP takeover MORE (Va.), Chrissy Houlahan (Penn.), Xochitl Torres Small (N.M.), Mikie SherrillRebecca (Mikie) Michelle SherrillKatie Hill launches effort to protect Democratic majority in House House panel approves B boost for defense budget Democrat unveils bill to allow only House members to serve as Speaker MORE (N.J.), and Lauren UnderwoodLauren UnderwoodBiden meets with vulnerable House Democrats with agenda in limbo Clyburn receives award named for John Lewis at March on Washington Film Festival's kickoff Clyburn: 'UnAmerican' not to prioritize Medicaid expansion in spending package MORE (Ill.).
A group of Senate Democrats led by Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharOn The Money — Progressives play hard ball on Biden budget plan Schumer, McConnell headed for another collision over voting rights Hillicon Valley — Presented by LookingGlass — Congress makes technology policy moves MORE (Minn.), a 2020 White House candidate, in July introduced similar legislation in the Senate, though it has not seen any movement since.
“We know that foreign entities continue to target ads and disinformation at voters in states like Michigan, that seek to divide our communities and influence our political process,” Slotkin said in a statement. “An important part of safeguarding our country against foreign influence is making sure individual citizens have the tools to spot that disinformation.”
Langevin pointed to ongoing foreign disinformation efforts aimed at interfering in U.S. elections in emphasizing that “we must combat this grave threat to our democracy, and increasing media literacy is an important tool to improve resiliency.”
Houlahan described election security as something that “need not be a partisan issue,” while Sherrill said in a statement that “disinformation is a national security threat.”
Underwood added that "We know that foreign adversaries are working to interfere in future elections, so the time is now to act to protect our democracy and the integrity of U.S. elections.”