House Dems introduce bill to fight social media disinformation

House Dems introduce bill to fight social media disinformation
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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. 

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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 John TrumpDavis: Supreme Court decision is bad news for Trump, good news for Vance Meadows trying to root out suspected White House leakers by feeding them info: Axios Pressley hits DeVos over reopening schools: 'I wouldn't trust you to care for a house plant let alone my child' MORE over former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBiden leads Trump in Florida, tied in Arizona and Texas: poll We haven't seen how low it can go There's a big blue wave coming MORE, echoing findings detailed by former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout 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 SlotkinHouse Democrat warns about 'inaccurate' polls: Trump voters 'fundamentally undercounted' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Justices rule Manhattan prosecutor, but not Congress, can have Trump tax records Will Congress finally address toxic 'forever chemicals?' MORE (Mich.), Jim LangevinJames (Jim) R. LangevinForeign cyber criminals take aim at Americans working from home Hillicon Valley: Democrats introduce bill banning federal government use of facial recognition tech | House lawmakers roll out legislation to establish national cyber director | Top federal IT official to step down Lawmakers introduce legislation to establish national cybersecurity director MORE (R.I.), Abigail SpanbergerAbigail Davis SpanbergerBipartisan lawmakers introduce bill to limit further expansion of 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force Trade groups make lobbying push to be included in small business loan program Virginia GOP to pick House nominee after candidate misses filing deadline MORE (Va.), Chrissy Houlahan (Penn.), Xochitl Torres Small (N.M.), Mikie SherrillRebecca (Mikie) Michelle SherrillNew Jersey incumbents steamroll progressive challengers in primaries The Hill's Morning Report - Republicans shift, urge people to wear masks Gun control group rolls out House endorsements MORE (N.J.), and Lauren UnderwoodLauren UnderwoodThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump wins by losing in the Supreme Court The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump takes on CDC over schools The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Teachers' union President Randi Weingarten calls Trump administration plan to reopen schools 'a train wreck'; US surpasses 3 million COVID-19 cases MORE (Ill.).

A group of Senate Democrats led by Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Fauci says focus should be on pausing reopenings rather than reverting to shutdowns; WHO director pleads for international unity in pandemic response State election officials warn budget cuts could lead to November chaos Biden strikes populist tone in blistering rebuke of Trump, Wall Street 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.”