Congressman introduces legislation to protect Americans from Russian propaganda, disinformation

Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) addresses supporters of Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe at a grassroots campaign event at Lubber Run Park in Arlington, Va., on Friday, July 23, 2021.
Greg Nash

Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) on Tuesday introduced legislation to combat Russian misinformation and educate Americans on how to properly seek out information about Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Educating Against Misinformation and Disinformation Act would establish a commission to fight misinformation and promote media literacy, according to a news release.

“Russian misinformation before and during their invasion of Ukraine is shining a spotlight on the urgent need to defend our country against the threat posed by these malign influence operations,” Beyer said in a statement.

The act is in response to the Russian invasion but would help address the larger problem of misinformation in the U.S., which took center stage during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the bill, the new commission would report annually on the status of education regarding the general issue of misinformation and disinformation in the U.S.

The bill would also establish a grant program to improve “resiliency” in Americans against misinformation and disinformation and commission a study on the extent of media literacy among Americans, with the goal of improving media literacy.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine late last month, Russian propaganda promoting the invasion has continued to circulate on social media. In response, Twitter banned more than 100 accounts for tweeting in support of Russian President Vladimir Putin or sharing the hashtag #IStandWithPutin.

Social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Reddit, have restricted Russian state media access to their platforms and demonetized content from such publishers.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) sent letters to tech companies, including Facebook parent company Meta, Twitter and Alphabet requesting they curb Russian disinformation and devote more resources to identifying fake accounts.

“As one of the world’s largest communications platforms, your company has a clear responsibility to ensure that your products are not used to facilitate human rights abuses, undermine humanitarian and emergency service responses, or advance harmful disinformation,” Warner wrote. 

Beyer said the Educating Against Misinformation and Disinformation Act is important because of the challenges posed to fighting back against the propaganda.

“Even before the current conflict in Ukraine, widespread state-sponsored misinformation campaigns designed to shape distorted narratives of reality posed a major challenge to countries including the United States,” he said in a statement. “This is a clear national security risk, and we must do more to build up our public defense to meet the needs of the present era of information warfare.”

Tags Don Beyer legislation Mark Warner misinformation propaganda Russian disinformation Vladimir Putin
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