National Security

House Dems introduce bill to fight social media disinformation

istock

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. 

{mosads}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 Trump over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, echoing findings detailed by former special counsel Robert Mueller. 

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 Slotkin (Mich.), Jim Langevin (R.I.), Abigail Spanberger (Va.), Chrissy Houlahan (Penn.), Xochitl Torres Small (N.M.), Mikie Sherrill (N.J.), and Lauren Underwood (Ill.).

A group of Senate Democrats led by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (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.”

Tags 2016 Russian election interference Abigail Spanberger Amy Klobuchar Disinformation Donald Trump Elissa Slotkin Hillary Clinton Jim Langevin Lauren Underwood Mikie Sherrill Robert Mueller Social media

Most Popular

Load more

Video

See all Video